Nanotechnologies, engineered nanomaterials and occupational health and safety - A review
K. Savolainen, L. Pylkkänen, H. Norppa, G. Falck, H. Lindberg, T. Tuomi, M. Vippola, H. Alenius, K. Hämeri, J. Koivisto, D. Brouwer, D. Mark, D. Bard, M. Berges, E. Jankowska, M. Posniak, P. Farmer, R. Singh, F. Krombach, P. Bihari, G. Kasper, M. Seipenbusch
Safety Sci., 2010, in press, DOI: 10.1016/j.ssci.2010.03.006
The significance of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) and nanotechnologies grows rapidly. Nanotechnology applications may have a positive marked impact on many aspects of on human every day life, for example by providing means for the production of clean energy and pure drinking water. Hundreds of consumer nano-based products are already on the market. However, very little is known of the risks of ENM to occupational safety and health (OSH), even though workers are likely to be at extra risk, as compared with other potentially exposed groups of people, because the levels of exposure are usually higher at workplaces than in other environments. However, knowledge of the exposure to, or effects of, ENM on human health and safety in occupational environments is limited and does not allow reliable assessment of risks of ENM on workers’ health. Several issues related to ENM in the workplaces require marked attention. The most topical issues include: (1) improved understanding of ENM metrics associated with ENM toxicity; (2) development of monitoring devices for ENM exposure assessment; (3) understanding the changes of ENM structure and state of agglomeration at different concentrations in aerosols; (4) understanding translocation of ENM in the human body; (5) identifying the key health effects of ENM including pulmonary toxicity, genotoxicity, carcinogenic effects, and effects on circulation; (6) development of tiered approaches for testing of safety of ENM; and (7) utilizing these data for health risk assessment, with a special emphasis on occupational environment. Available data on several ENM – ability to enter the body and reach almost any organ, to cause pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis, and even to cause increased risk of mesotheliomas in animal models, call for immediate action. It is crucial to identify those ENM that may cause occupational health and safety risks from those ENM which are innocent, hence allowing prioritization of regulatory and preventive actions at workplaces at national, regional and global levels.