Nanotechnology and Worker Safety

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What is nanotechnology?

The National Nanotechnology Initiative defines nanotechnology as “the study and application of extremely small things.” How small? One nanometer equals one billionth of a meter. Or, to give a better visual, the Initiative explains that “if a marble were a nanometer, then one meter would be the size of the Earth.”

What does nanotechnology do?

Due to their minuscule size, engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) are being added to construction materials, and we are seeing significant improvements in those materials as a result. The blog from the American Society of Safety Engineers, EHS Works, explains that “adding nanomaterials or making changes at this tiny size can transform familiar construction materials into concrete that conducts electricity, glass that cleans itself and coatings that cut smog.”

What are potential worker hazards with nanotechnology? 

The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) shares that some nanomaterials “have been shown to be toxic in the lab.” Currently, OSHA does not have a Permissible Exposure Limit for nanomaterials, however, common sense comes into play when a worker is consistently exposed to nanoparticles. In their helpful Hazard Alert, the CPWR explains that workers can protect themselves by 1) Learning about nanomaterials in their trade 2)Controlling dust and 3) Wearing a respirator.

To see more from CPWR’s Nanotechnology Initiative, visit their website here!