Nanotechnology is the science and technology of precisely manipulating the structure of matter at the molecular level.
A nanometer is a thousandth of a micron and a micron is a thousandth of a millimeter, so a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter or 10-9 meters. To be classified as a nanomaterial (NM), the material must be less than 100 nm in size in at least one direction.
While nanomaterials present seemingly limitless possibilities, they bring new challenges to understanding, predicting, and managing potential safety and health risks to workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the leading federal agency conducting research and providing guidance on the occupational safety and health implications and applications of nanotechnology.
For 2013, NIOSH has produced this guidance entitled Protecting the Nanotechnology Workforce.
NIOSH has identified 10 critical topic areas to guide in addressing knowledge gaps, developing strategies, and providing recommendations.
The International Standards Organization (ISO) does not distinguish between engineered nanoparticles and naturally occurring nanoparticles. Be aware that there are naturally occurring nanoparticles in the environment today.
Nano Hazards in Research
Working with nano materials poses a wide variety of hazards. The National Institutes for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) is considering the risks posed by nanoparticale work; their information can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech/
This link provides some free GoodNanoGuide short courses and resources to get some basic safety training and information for working with nano materials. Course modules that are available in powerpoint slides include:
- Nanomaterial Overview (NIOSH site)
- Assessing Exposure to Nanomaterials in the Workplace (2009)
- Controlling Exposures to Nanomaterials (2012)
- Protecting the Nanotech Workforce (2013)
- Nanomaterial Production & Downstream Handling Processes (2014)
- Risk Management and Hazard Communications (NIOSH site)
- Tools and Resources for Further Study (NIOSH link)
OSHA has also recently released a Fact Sheet about working with Nano Materials.
Risk Management and Safety staff is available to do hazard assessments and make recommendations for workplace safety and health practices for labs using or engineering nanomaterials. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.