The International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON; Houston, TX) has released two reports comprising the first comprehensive, international survey of workplace safety practices in the nanotechnology industry. The results indicate that many nanotech companies and laboratories believe nanoparticles may pose specific environmental and health risks for workers. In response, companies report that they are developing special programs and procedures for mitigating risks to workers and consumers.
Image courtesy of West Virginia Univ.
Yet due in part to a lack of general information regarding nanomaterials risks, companies and labs have workers using conventional environmental, health, and safety practices when handling nanomaterials, even though the practices were developed to deal with bulk materials that can have markedly different chemical properties than their nano-sized counterparts.
The reports were commissioned by ICON, and conducted by a team from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in a two-phase project aimed at determining how industry is managing the occupational safety risks that may be posed by certain nanomaterials.
The first-phase report, Current Knowledge and Practices Regarding Environmental Health and Safety in the Nanotechnology Workplace, offers a review and analysis of existing efforts to develop "best practices" for workplace safety in the nascent nanotech industry.
The second-phase report, A Survey of Current Practices in the Nanotechnology Workplace, surveyed industry practices currently in use. Survey data was collected last year from 64 organizations in North America, the European Union, Asia, and Australia. Taken together, the two reports provide the first-ever overview of environmental health and safety in the nanotechnology workplace.