The Nonmetallic Materials Division of UDRI has sponsored the collection of information on the toxicity of specific nanoparticles and the utilization of appropriate engineering controls and personal protective equipment to minimize their inhalation and/or ingestion in a laboratory environment. These nanoparticles include carbon nanofibers, layered silicates, and fumed silica. The information collected is summarized in a webpage to serve as a resource to other UD researchers working with similar materials. These guidelines have been used to educate and inform researchers working with nanoparticles in the NMM Division. It is recognized that other nanoparticles may warrant different controls or safe handling practices.
This webpage is intended to provide a summary of common practices and protocols employed in government, industrial and academic laboratories when working with nanoparticles. The information serves as an interim reference until a regulatory framework that details the potential risks and safe handling practices of nanoparticles is established.
Table of Contents
Manufactured and engineered nanomaterials, such as nanoparticles, nanotubes, nanowires, and other nanoscale materials have not been thoroughly evaluated to determine the health effects and risks associated with handling them. Due to their smaller dimensions, larger surface area, and potential ability to penetrate cells more easily than larger particles, free particles in the nanometer size range are being evaluated for toxicity and critical exposure levels. However, there is universal consensus among scientists that currently there is incomplete toxicological information in peer reviewed literature. While a significant amount of government and private sector funding is now dedicated to research focused on assessing the health hazards and determining the controls needed in working with nanomaterials, much of these efforts will require longer term study and data collection. As a result, an assessment of risk and appropriate safety measures based on the available limited data are needed to educate and protect those working with nanomaterials.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has taken the lead in conducting research and partnering with other organizations involved in nanoparticle health and safety research. NIOSH is also dedicated to making this information available to the public. As a result, NIOSH has provided a Nanotechnology webpage that provides an in-depth review of the current information regarding nanoparticle toxicity and control. This page may be found at the following URL: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech/nano_exchange.html#engineered
"Until further information on the possible health risks and extent of occupational exposure to nanomaterials becomes available, interim precautionary measures should be developed and implemented." - NIOSH Nanotechnology: Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology
A review of practices within government, industry and academia has been explored to provide safety guidelines and work practices for the handling of nanoparticles until appropriate federal regulations are in place. A condensed summary of these general guidelines is provided below:
Pursue classic Industrial Hygiene (IH) practices for hazardous materials
Control use should include:
- Engineering Controls
Emphasis should be on engineering control procedures to reduce airborne exposure to nanoparticles. These techniques should be similar to controls used to reduce general aerosol exposure.
- Provide source enclosure to isolate generation of nanoparticles where applicable.
- Maintain and test local exhaust ventilation systems as recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).
- Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter media for exhaust ventilation systems.
- Note: Unventilated process enclosures may not be effective for controlling nanoparticle exposure due to the greater ability of nanoparticles to penetrate gaps.
- Administrative Controls
- Communicate current known and unknown information to workers on a regular basis.
- Inform employees of risks and involve them in implementation of safety measures.
- Revise health and safety policies as appropriate for nanoparticle exposure.
- Implement access controls to restrict area to authorized personnel only.
- Employ health monitoring where appropriate.
- Work Practices
- Use HEPA vacuum and wet wiping methods for cleaning work areas at end of each work shift.
- Separate consumption and storage of food or beverages from areas where nanomaterials are handled.
- Keep all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used for working with nanoparticles inside the lab in a designated area.
- Direct employees to wash hands prior to eating, smoking or leaving the worksite.
- Provide facilities for showering and/or changing to prevent transfer of nanoparticles to other areas.
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Ensure respirators are correctly specified and fitted by UD Environmental Health and Safety.
- Use P-100 filter media.
- Ensure proper installation of HEPA filters and secure sealing of housing to prevent nanoparticles from escaping around housing.
- Wear Tyvek coveralls, latex or nitrile gloves, and eyeglass protection.
- Gloves should adequately cover full hand and wrist area.
Care should be taken during maintenance of general ventilation, hoods, and other equipment used for nanoparticle research and development. Lab policy should include a statement regarding the use of proper PPE during routine maintenance of equipment.
Concentrated nanomaterials should be disposed as hazardous waste.
Materials used in handling or cleaning nanomaterials should be disposed in a separate waste container and sealed. Examples include gloves, lab coats, shoe covers, towels, wipes, and containers which have residual amounts of nanomaterials. Labs should submit a waste collection request form and arrange pick up with EHS/RM.
Nanotechnology Health and Safety Resources
The following links provide more information regarding the latest nanoparticle toxicity research, environmental impact and occupational health and safety.
For questions or additional information please contact Lynn Bowman,
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