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The Hierarchy of Environmental Health and Safety Practices in the U.S. Nanotechnology Workplace
Link to Journal Abstract
Manufacturing of nanoscale materials (nanomaterials) is a major outcome of nanotechnology. However, the potential adverse human health effects of manufactured nanomaterial exposure are not yet fully understood, and exposures in humans are mostly uncharacterized. Appropriate exposure control strategies to protect workers are still being developed and evaluated, and regulatory approaches rely largely on industry self-regulation and self-reporting. In this context of soft regulation, the authors sought to: 1) assess current company-reported environmental health and safety practices in the United States throughout the product life cycle, 2) consider their implications for the manufactured nanomaterial workforce, and 3) identify the needs of manufactured nanomaterial companies in developing nano-protective environmental health and safety practices. Analysis was based on the responses of 45 U.S.-based company participants in a 2009–2010 international survey of private companies that use and/or produce nanomaterials. Companies reported practices that span all aspects of the current government-recommended hierarchical approach to manufactured nanomaterials’ exposure controls. However, practices that were tailored to current manufactured nanomaterials’ hazard and exposure knowledge, whether within or outside the hierarchical approach, were reported less frequently than general chemical hygiene practices. Product stewardship and waste management practices—the influences of which are substantially downstream—were reported less frequently than most other environmental health and safety practices. Larger companies had more workers handling nanomaterials, but smaller companies had proportionally more employees handling nanomaterials and more frequently identified impediments to implementing nano-protective practices. Company-reported environmental health and safety practices suggest more attention to environmental health and safety is necessary, especially with regard to practices that can cause external effects. Given reported impediments, smaller companies may especially benefit from more attention. However, the manufactured nanomaterial workforce within smaller companies is particularly difficult to identify and hence locate, posing challenges to developing and enforcing appropriate workplace environmental health and safety.
For this paper, and in the context of soft regulation, the authors sought to: 1) assess current company-reported environmental health and safety practices in the United States throughout the product life cycle, 2) consider their implications for the manufactured nanomaterial workforce, and 3) identify the needs of manufactured nanomaterial companies in developing nano-protective environmental health and safety practices.
Peer Reviewed Journal Article
Exposure Or Hazard Target
Method Of Study
Material Analysis and Applications
Risk Exposure Group
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 2013, 10(9): 487-495
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Engeman CD, Baumgartner L, Carr BM, Fish AM, Meyerhofer JD, Satterfield TA, Holden PA, Harthorn BH
Last updated on August 28, 2013
This work is supported in part by the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Initiative of the National Science Foundation
under NSF Award Number EEC-0118007.
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