Posted: Dec 21, 2006

Nanotechnology: elements of a medical surveillance program

(Nanowerk News) Guidance expected to be issued soon by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will recommend that all nanotechnology workplaces implement an occupational health surveillance program.
As reported at Occupational Hazards, earlier this month at the International Conference on Nanotechnology Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety in Cincinnati, Doug Trout of NIOSH summarized NIOSH's upcoming guidance and provided a general overview of the topic of occupational health surveillance.
Trout noted that the upcoming NIOSH guidance will advise nanotech employers to conduct their surveillance programs "in a stepwise fashion," beginning with a needs assessment.
"The purpose of this needs assessment in an occupational setting is to determine – by performing hazard and exposure assessments – whether a health risk due to occupational exposure [to nanomaterials] exists in the workplace," Trout said.
If the needs assessment results in a determination that a health risk is present, Trout said, then employers should consider medical surveillance.
In part two of this two-part series, Trout details the factors that should be considered before implementing a medical surveillance program and discusses a template for a medical surveillance program that Trout said employers could implement "as a precautionary measure."
According to Trout, there are several factors that should be considered before implementing a medical surveillance program. "Evaluation of these factors," Trout explained, "is the foundation for the development of medical surveillance programs."
Before going forward with a medical surveillance program, nanotech businesses should:
– Come up with a "clearly defined purpose or objective" for the surveillance. "For example," Trout said, "medical surveillance performed using periodic medical history data collection or questionnaire information might have, as a primary purpose, early detection of unusual patterns of symptoms or illnesses related to a particular organ system, or detection of changes in symptoms or medical conditions in individuals over time."
– Identify the target population. "Such a population might generally include, for example, that subset of workers with the highest potential for exposure," Trout said.
– Consider the availability of testing modalities. "Testing modalities – which may include tools such as questionnaires, physical examinations or medical testing – must be available to accomplish the defined objective," Trout said.
"If the factors considered in the planning stages noted above support proceeding with the development of a medical surveillance program," Trout explained, "a clear plan should be established before the program is initiated."
Source: Occupational Hazards