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Potential Exposure Locations

At present there is insufficient information to predict all of the situations and workplace scenarios that are likely to lead to exposure to nanomaterials. However, there are some workplace factors that can increase the potential for exposure. These include:

  • Working with nanomaterials in liquid media without adequate protection (e.g., gloves) will increase the risk of skin exposure.
  • Working with nanomaterials in liquid media during pouring or mixing operations, or where a high degree of agitation is involved, will lead to an increased likelihood of inhalable and respirable droplets being formed.
  • Generating nanoparticles in the gas phase in nonenclosed systems will increase the chances of aerosol release to the workplace.
  • Handling nanostructured powders will lead to the possibility of aerosolization.
  • Maintenance on equipment and processes used to produce or fabricate nanomaterials will pose a potential exposure risk to workers performing these tasks.
  • Cleaning of dust collection systems used to capture nanoparticles will pose a potential for both skin and inhalation exposure.1
  • “Machining, sanding, drilling, or other mechanical disruptions of materials containing nanoparticles can lead to aerosolization of nanomaterials.”2

Potential exposure locations that should be considered in any guideline for working with engineered nanomaterials includes:

1. U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology—An Information Exchange with NIOSH, Draft for Public Comment, 15 (July 2006). (This paper has been distributed solely for the purpose of pre-dissemination peer review under applicable CDC/NIOSH information quality guidelines. It has not been formally disseminated by CDC/NIOSH and should not be construed to represent any CDC/NIOSH determinations or policy.)

2. P. Schulte, C. Geraci, R. Zumwalde, M. Hoover, and E. Kuempel, “Occupational Risk Management of Engineered Nanoparticles,” Journal of Occupational and Environment Hygiene 239, 240-241 (April 2008)