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NIOSH tackles worker safety issues related to nanomaterial

It is difficult to comprehend the size of a nanometer. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Nanomaterials are those which measure between one nanometer and 100 nanometers in size. A material this small is seemingly harmless. However, toxic exposure to certain industrial nanomaterials can seriously harm workers.

In an effort to encourage only safe exposure to industrial nanomaterials, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released new recommendations related to controlling hazardous exposure to industrial nanomaterials. The recommendations are available to the public on the NIOSH’s website and are entitled, “Current Strategies for Engineering Controls in Nanomaterial Production and Downstream Handling Processes.”

The director of the NIOSH recently explained why these recommendations are necessary. He noted that, “As we continue to work with diverse partners to study the health effects produced by exposure to nanomaterials, particularly as new materials and products continue to be introduced, it is prudent to protect workers now from potential adverse health outcomes. These recommendations represent the kind of science-based guidance that our partners have requested, as a vital component for supporting the safe growth of nanotechnology and U.S. leadership in the global market."

Safety experts do not yet fully understand what effects toxic exposure to industrial nanomaterials may have on workers. However, so many consumer products now have nanomaterials within their structures that it has become critical to proactively safeguard industrial workers from exposure to these particles at unsafe levels. Employers who fail to protect their workers from toxic exposure may be held accountable for harm that befalls their workers as a result of such inaction.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety magazine, “NIOSH Releases New Nanomaterial Control Recommendations,” Nov. 11, 2013

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