(592b) Managing Uncertainty: a Best Management Practices Approach to Nanoscale Materials and Occupational Health Concerns
AIChE Annual Meeting
Thursday, November 16, 2006 - 3:35pm to 3:55pm
Nanotechnology is impacting hundreds of consumer products, and innovative applications for these ?new? materials in the < 100 nm range hold great promise in areas of energy production and management, microelectronics, polymer science, foods and consumer products, as well as targeted medical treatments. Nanomaterials are currently being produced at both large and small facilities, and hundreds of thousands of workers in research and development (including university) laboratories, manufacturing facilities, and application sites could potentially be exposed to nanoparticles in the future to meet the growing production demands. To date, no specific occupational exposure limits for any nanoscale material has been implemented. Nevertheless, materials are specifically produced in the nanoscale because of unique and often unusual properties not seen in larger particles of the same substance, and may pose risks not seen in the parent material. However, the scientific basis for exposure regulation will not be available for most nanomaterials for years; therefore, employers producing or using nanomaterials have an immediate need for practical approaches for developing and managing effective employee health and safety programs. As risks can not be currently evaluated using traditional risk management tools due to a lack of scientific data on exposure impacts, short-term approaches will be required. A short-term approach incorporating a best management practices approach to occupational health and safety can benefit from the integration of chemistry, industrial hygiene, materials and process engineering, toxicology and risk assessment, and health expertise with cooperation at the corporate or organization level. Practical approaches to managing uncertain risks could be modeled after those developed for potent compounds, radioactive materials, and virulent pathogens. Important considerations include ventilation, industrial hygiene monitoring, personal protective equipment, engineering controls, and medical surveillance. This talk will describe such alternative approaches to protecting employees where risks are unknown, and strategies for transferring and communicating program successes to date between organizations. As this is a dynamic process, strategies implemented now to protect worker health will need to be evaluated and adjusted as new information becomes available.