NIOSH Releases New Nano-material Control Recommendations

Nov. 2013

NIOSH has published new recommendations for controlling workers’ exposures to engineered nano materials when such materials are used industrially. The agency’s new document, “Current Strategies for Engineering Controls in Nanomaterial Production and Downstream Handling Processes,” DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2014-102.

The recommendations follow the standard hierarchy of controls, and the document is well illustrated with photos and diagrams of ventilation equipment, fume hoods, PPE, and other protective equipment. More than a thousand consumer products already on the market contain nano materials, including makeup, sunscreen, food storage products, appliances, clothing, electronics, computers, sporting goods, and coatings, according to the agency’s news release.

“As we continue to work with diverse partners to study the health effects produced by exposure to nano materials, particularly as new materials and products continue to be introduced, it is prudent to protect workers now from potential adverse health outcomes,” NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard said. “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.”

The section on engineering controls – local exhaust ventilation, isolation, and dust suppression methods — are likely to be the most effective control strategy for nano materials, but it also advises using elimination and substitution first if they are feasible. Administrative controls and PPE “may be less expensive [than engineering controls] to establish but, over the long term, can be very costly to sustain” and are less effective, the document states.

Its recommendations on PPE discuss chemical-resistant gloves and respiratory protection. Controls are recommended for reactor operations and cleanout processes, small-scale weighing and handling of nano-powders, intermediate and finishing processes, and maintenance tasks.

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