IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail


Nanomaterials & Nanoparticles: Guidance for Nanomaterial Risk Management in the Workplace

Nanomaterials & Nanoparticles: Guidance for Nanomaterial Risk Management in the Workplace

It is estimated that about 10% of manufacturing jobs worldwide are associated with nanotechnologies, and more than 2,000 commercial products contain nanomaterials.

Given our fragmentary knowledge of the health and safety risks for workers and the environment, the handling of these new materials with their unique properties raises many questions and concerns.

Studies have already demonstrated that the toxicity of certain nanomaterials differs from that of their bulk counterparts of the same chemical composition. Nanomaterials enter the body mainly through inhalation but also through the skin and the GI tract. Animal studies have demonstrated that certain nanomaterials can enter the blood stream through translocation and accumulate in different organs.

 Fortunately, current scientific knowledge, though partial, makes it possible to identify, assess and effectively manage these risks associated.

This guide, Best Practices Guidance for Nanomaterial Risk Management in the Workplace, is meant to support the safe development of nanotechnologies by bringing together cutting edge knowledge on hazard identification, strategies for determining nanomaterial levels in different work environments, risk assessment and the application of various risk management approaches.

With the exponential growth in industrial applications of nanotechnologies and the increased risk of occupational exposure to nanomaterials, the precautionary principle has been recommended. To apply this principle, and even though personal protective equipment against nanoparticles must be considered only as a last resort in the risk control strategy, this equipment must be available.

Filtration is the simplest and most common method of aerosol control. It is widely used in mechanical ventilation and respiratory protection. However, concerns have been raised regarding the effectiveness of filters for capturing nanoparticles.

Nanomaterial and worker safety

Other research reports

The study Nanoparticle measurement, control and characterization: Procedure applied to machining and mechanical friction showed that the conditions of friction and machining (tool geometry, workpiece material and thermal state of the workpiece) considerably affect nanoparticles emissions. Mastering these effects will help control nanoparticles better, reduce emissions at the source or target emissions of a particular size, for example, a less harmful size.