National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Handling Nanomaterials

Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are materials that are intentionally produced to have at least one primary dimension less than 100 nanometers (nm). These materials have new or unique properties different from those of larger forms of the same material, making them desirable for specific product applications. The health effects associated with nanomaterials are not yet clearly understood, so it is
important for producers and users of ENMs to reduce employee exposure and manage risks appropriately. In 2013, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a compendium of control approaches for nanomaterial production and use processes entitled Current Strategies for Engineering Controls in Nanomaterial Production and Downstream Handling Processes. This Workplace Design Solutions document provides guidance on exposure control approaches for protecting workers during nanomaterial reactor operations.


The toxicity of many nanomaterials is presently unknown, but initial research indicates that there may be health concerns related to occupational inhalation exposures. Only a few types of ENMs have undergone extensive toxicological evaluation by NIOSH, e.g., titanium dioxide (TiO2) and carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Results from animal studies with TiO2 and other poorly-soluble, low toxicity particles of fine and ultrafine (nanoscale) sizes have shown adverse pulmonary responses in exposed rats, including persistent pulmonary inflammation and lung tumors [NIOSH 2011; Oberdörster 2002; Donaldson 2009; Poland et al. 2012]. Similar toxicological responses have also been observed in rats and mice exposed to CNTs and carbon nanofibers (CNFs) [NIOSH 2013]. Because of the potential for adverse human health effects, it is important to control worker exposure and to manage risks appropriately throughout the lifecycle of ENM production.

For further information, go to: 

CDC 2018