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Posted: May 10, 2012

Nanotoolkit: Working Safely with Engineered Nanomaterials in Academic Research Settings

(Nanowerk News) The California Nanosafety Consortium of Higher Education has published Nanotoolkit – Working Safely with Engineered Nanomaterials in Academic Research Settings (pdf), a compendium of best practices, standards, and guidelines to using engineered nanomaterials.
Background
The increasing use of nanomaterials in research and development laboratories along with applications in industry are providing breakthroughs for many technologies and solutions for addressing major problems in our society. However, as with all new technologies, the potential health effects of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) remain uncertain. The aim of this project is to provide practical guidance as to how ENMs should be handled safely in the research laboratory setting in the face of such uncertainty over possible toxic effects.
Currently many government agencies, academic institutions, and industries have issued detailed guidance documents as to how NMs should be monitored, controlled, and handled in different work settings. Only a portion of these practices have been validated by scientific research or reference to peer reviewed literature. Most guidance documents and exposure studies to date have focused primarily on industrial settings, but academic research settings present their own challenges that also need to be addressed. Much of the initial research and development in nanotechnology is still performed in academic research laboratories. In academic laboratories, the quantity of materials used tends to be less than those used in industry, but the variety of nanomaterials used tends to be more diverse. As a result, the potential hazards are also more diverse and exposure monitoring is more challenging. Furthermore, academic practices tend to be less standardized and to vary more from lab to lab and from day to day than typical industrial processes. This means that engineering controls which are commonly used in industry may not be practical to apply in academic laboratory research settings.
The nature of research and training in academic institutions dictates that new students and employees with various backgrounds and levels of training are regularly being introduced into the many diverse laboratory settings. Undergraduate student researchers, graduate students and other laboratory personnel often have minimal formal safety training or are lacking the latest hazard information about such new technological developments. All of these factors make a simple adoption or application of standardized industrial best practices for working with NMs in laboratories difficult.
Goals
The goal of this project is to provide an easy to use tool kit for academic researchers to quickly identify safe handling practices based on whether the work they propose is in a low, moderate, or high potential exposure category. The exposure categories and controls were determined from a review and analysis of many related nanomaterial health and safety guidance documents.
Source: California Nanosafety Consortium of Higher Education
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