HOUSTON, Nov. 13, 2006 -- The first comprehensive, international survey of workplace safety practices in the burgeoning nanotechnology industry finds that many nanotech companies and laboratories believe nanoparticles specks of matter that are smaller than living cells may pose specific environmental and health risks for workers. In response, companies are reporting that they are developing special programs and procedures for mitigating risks to workers and consumers. Yet, due in part to a lack of general information regarding nanomaterials risks, companies and labs have workers using conventional environmental, health and safety (EHS) 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 use of conventional practices for handling nanomaterials appears to stem from a lack of information on the toxicological properties of nanomaterials, as well as nascent regulatory guidance regarding the proper environmental, health and safety practices that should be used with them," said Kristen M. Kulinowski, director of the International Council on Nanotechnology, a coalition of academic, industrial, governmental and civil society organizations that commissioned the survey.
The report, A Survey of Current Practices in the Nanotechnology Workplace, is available at http://icon.rice.edu. Both the survey and report were produced by a research team from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) that includes environmental scientists, sociologists, and corporate environmental management experts and anthropologists.
"This is an important study because it reinforces the perspective that there needs to be more information regarding the toxicology of new nanomaterials and how they should be handled in the contexts of industry, consumers and the environment," said Pa
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