Prevention when dealing with nanomaterials

Measurement of the particle concentration during manufacturing process of nanomaterials. Image: IFA
Measurement of the particle concentration during manufacturing process of nanomaterials. Image: IFA

Due to their extremely small size, nanoparticles have a very large surface area and a high mobility relative to their mass. This enables them to react strongly with their environment. Potential risks arise primarily from the inhalation exposure to nanoparticles (DGUV 2010).

The rapid development of nanotechnologies also has an impact on occupational safety issues. Nanotechnologies promise significant benefits, but could pose threats as well. In spite of intensive worldwide research, a final assessment of the threats is currently not possible. However, there are indications that certain nanomaterials may pose health and safety risks. Thus, appropriate preventative measures and responsible handling of these technologies should be taken (DGUV 2010).

So far, no publications show that the exposure to engineered nanomaterials has caused diseases. However, scientific findings suggest that a correspondingly high exposure to nanoparticles could have adverse health effects (DGUV 2010).

Risk research in the field of nanotechnologies plays a central role throughout Europe, as the EU has committed itself to the precautionary principle. In BGI / GUV-I 5149 the DGUV (2010) stresses the implications of the principle: if no scientifically established evidence about the hazard potential of a material exists, this material should be considered a health-endangering substance.

In risk research, there is by definition only a risk when there is exposure to a substance that is hazardous to health (risk = exposure x danger). Conversely, this means that a reduction or avoidance of exposure leads to the avoidance of the risk. However, in this article we do not deal with risk research. Visit the website SafeNano of the European Union and the DaNa project for a current overview of ongoing and completed research projects.

Sources:

ยท         DGUV 2010: Nanomaterialien am Arbeitsplatz. BGI/GUV-I 5149