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10 Critical Topic Areas

NIOSH has identified 10 critical topic areas to guide in addressing knowledge gaps, developing strategies, and providing recommendations.

Each topic provides a brief description of the research that NIOSH is conducting in the area of nanotechnology and the applications and implications of nanomaterials in the workplace.

Toxicity and Internal Dose

  • Investigating and determining the physical and chemical properties (ex: size, shape, solubility) that influence the potential toxicity of nanoparticles
  • Evaluating short and long-term effects that nanomaterials may have in organ systems and tissues (ex: lungs)
  • Determining biological mechanisms for potential toxic effects
  • Creating and integrating models to assist in assessing possible hazards
  • Determining if a measure other than mass is more appropriate for determining toxicity

Risk Assessment

  • Determining the likelihood that current exposure-response data (human or animal) could be used in identifying and assessing potential occupational hazards
  • Developing a framework for evaluating potential hazards and predicting potential occupational risk of exposure to nanomaterials.

Epidemiology & Surveillance

  • Evaluating existing epidemiological workplace studies where nanomaterials are used
  • Identifying knowledge gaps where epidemiological studies could advance understanding of nanomaterials and evaluating the likelihood of conducting new studies
  • Integrating nanotechnology health and safety issues into existing hazard surveillance methods and determining whether additional screening methods are needed
  • Using existing systems to share data and information about nanotechnology

Engineering Controls and PPE

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of engineering controls in reducing occupational exposures to nanoaerosols and developing new controls where needed
  • Evaluating and improving current personal protective equipment
  • Developing recommendations to prevent or limit occupational exposures (ex: respirator fit testing)
  • Evaluating suitability of control banding techniques where additional information is needed; and evaluating the effectiveness of alternative materials

Measurement Methods

  • Evaluating methods of measuring mass of respirable particles in the air and determining if this measurement can be used to measure nanomaterials
  • Developing and field-testing practical methods to accurately measure airborne nanomaterials in the workplace
  • Developing testing and evaluation systems to compare and validate sampling instruments

Exposure Assessment

  • Determining key factors that influence the production, dispersion, accumulation, and re-entry of nanomaterials into the workplace
  • Assessing possible exposure when nanomaterials are inhaled or settle on the skin
  • Determining how possible exposures differ by work process
  • Determining what happens to nanomaterials once they enter the body

Fire and Explosion Safety

  • Identifying physical and chemical properties that contribute to dustiness, combustibility, flammability, and conductivity of nanomaterials.
  • Recommending alternative work practices to eliminate or reduce workplace exposures to nanoparticles.

Recommendations & Guidance

  • Using the best available science to make interim recommendations for workplace safety and health practices during the production and use of nanomaterials
  • Evaluating and updating occupational exposure limits for mass-based airborne particles to ensure good continuing precautionary practices
  • Providing guidance and publications to help provide information on the best available science for nanomaterials

Global Collaborations

  • Establishing partnerships and collaborations to allow for identification and sharing of research needs, approaches, and results
  • Developing and disseminating training and educational materials to workers and health and safety professionals


  • Identifying uses of nanotechnology for application in occupational safety and health
  • Evaluating and disseminating effective applications to workers and occupational safety and health professionals