When you read the case study that prompted this series of posts on nanoparticles, you’ll likely be struck by these actions:
1) The company, a producer of nanoscale metals, invited NIOSH to their facility to evaluate their process flow and to identify potential points of employee exposure to nanoparticles.
2) They equipped their production crew with significant personal protective equipment (PPE).
3) They purchased a welding fume extractor (our Model 300) to control engineered nanomaterials emissions.
[Why a welding fume extractor? Perhaps because they knew the hot temperatures of welding produce combustion-derived nanoparticles.]
Real concerns about worker exposure
In a blog post, NIOSH says, “greatest exposures to raw nanomaterials are likely to occur in the workplace during production, handling, secondary processing, and packaging.”
NIOSH also says, “Currently, the toxicity of many nanomaterials is unknown, but initial research indicates that there may be health concerns related to occupational exposures.”
We’ve been here before: new technology offers wondrous benefits only to later learn of its hazards. Consider chemotherapy, designed to save lives from cancer but may put oncology workers at risk for serious illnesses, including cancer.
Another example is asbestos; once considered to have great properties useful in many industries, but now frequently viewed as the source of the cancer mesothelioma.
Ultra small particles in the human body
Research is ongoing but seldom as definitive as we would like. Ideally, one result of research would tell us what measures to take to protect workers. We don’t always get that, at least not in the short term.
A recent announcement of new articles published by the online journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology listed studies that investigate the relationships between various types of particles, including nanospheres; ultrafine particles (UFP); urban air particulate; and nanoparticles, and human health conditions such as diabetes, vasodilation, and glucose metabolism.
If you examine the journal, you will see that researchers have many questions about the potential health hazards of nanoparticles:
Is it the size of the nanoparticle or is it the engineered material that has the most toxic potential?
Is a single exposure to engineered nanomaterials as toxic as multiple exposures?
What are the molecular mechanisms of nanoparticle toxicity?
Respect for the unknown
While answers are being sought for these important questions, it makes sense to provide respiratory protection for workers who may be exposed to nanoparticles.
Seeking to control nanoparticles?
Our Applications Specialists will work with you to define a solution.
Effectiveness of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) in Controlling Engineered Nanomaterial Emissions During Reactor Cleanout Operations,
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, Volume 5, Issue 6, 2008
Protecting the Nanotechnology Workforce, NIOSH Nanotechnology Research and Guidance Strategic Plan, 2013 – 2016.
HEPA filters are not sieves
Controlling Exposures to Workers Who Make or Use Nanomaterials
Current Strategies for Engineering Controls In Nanomaterial Production and Downstream Handling Processes
Combustion-derived nanoparticles: A review of their toxicology following inhalation exposure