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Protecting Workers in Nanotechnology Industries

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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has updated its report Protecting the Nanotechnology Workforce: NIOSH Nanotechnology Research and Guidance Strategic Plan, 2013–2016. This plan updates the November 2009 strategic plan with knowledge gained from results of ongoing research, as described in the 2012 report Filling the Knowledge Gaps for Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace: A Progress Report from the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center, 2004–2011. The NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Program follows a comprehensive plan that is managed as a matrix structure across NIOSH and supports multiple sectors in the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).

Nanotechnology provides many opportunities for advancing the economic value and impact of new U.S. technologies and products as it expands into every industrial sector. Today, nanomaterials are found in hundreds of products, ranging from cosmetics, to clothing, to industrial and biomedical applications. The potential benefits of nanotechnology are huge, and these benefits should be realized by society. However, there is ongoing concern that the full potential of the societal benefits may not be realized if research efforts are not undertaken to determine how to best manage and control the potential occupational safety and health hazards associated with the handling of these nanomaterials.

The research conducted over the past 8 years has proven that NIOSH is a global leader in promoting the responsible development of nanotechnology. NIOSH has built business partnerships, established itself as a key player in nanotoxicology, published precautionary guidance (Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology: Managing the Safety and Health Concerns Associated with Engineered Nanomaterials), and issued recommended exposure limits for nanoscale titanium dioxide and for carbon nanotubes and nanofibers.

This NIOSH Nanotechnology Research and Guidance Strategic Plan is the roadmap being used to advance basic understanding of the toxicology and workplace exposures involved so that appropriate risk management practices can be implemented during discovery, development, and commercialization of engineered nanomaterials. NIOSH will strive to remain at the forefront of developing guidance that supports and promotes the safe and responsible development of such a promising technology.

Source: NIOSH Publications