Safety, health, and environmental professionals should develop safeguards to protect workers from nanoparticles that could enter their bloodstream or lungs, recommended American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) member Robert Adams, CIH, CSP. Nanoparticles are particles of materials the size of one-billionth of a meter; at this level, the physical, chemical, and biological properties of matter can be engineered to create new products and applications such as water-repellant coatings and more-durable titanium cutting tools.
According to Adams, occupational safety, health, and environmental (SH&E) professionals in the nanotechnology industry should proactively develop safety practices to protect workers from nanoparticle exposure. He recommended that SH&E professionals continue to use–and improve upon–safety and risk management programs in addition to providing necessary personal protective equipment and localized exhaust ventilation systems to reduce the build up of nanoparticles in the workplace.
As the number of nanotechnology businesses grows, more research and data is needed to understand potential health effects to workers. Adams advised that nanoparticles could be absorbed into the bloodstream and brain through skin contact or inhalation through the lungs, but the specific health effects are not yet known. Organizations such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are conducting studies of this kind, but it could be years before any long-term effects are determined