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Workplace controls to prevent nanomaterial exposure

06 November, 2009

Chair of the Safe Work Australia Council, Mr Tom Phillips AM, has announced the release of two research reports on engineered nanomaterials.

These reports were published as part of the Nanotechnology Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Program, which is managed by Safe Work Australia for the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

Mr Phillips said that these reports add significantly to our understanding of the OHS risks of working with nanomaterials and provides us with a strong direction for further research.

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology undertook research for the report titled Engineered nanomaterials: Evidence on the effectiveness of workplace controls. This research report explores the effectiveness of workplace controls to prevent exposure to engineered nanomaterials. Some key findings in the report include:

• current control and risk management methods can protect workers from exposure to engineered nanomaterials
• enclosure of processes involving nanomaterials and correctly designed and installed extraction ventilation can both significantly reduce worker exposure to nanomaterials, and
• a precautionary approach is recommended for handling nanomaterials in the workplace.

Toxikos Pty Ltd undertook research for the report titled Engineered nanomaterials: A review of toxicology and health hazards.

This report analyses scientific literature from 2006 to 2009 and focuses on the toxicity of a number of nanomaterials being researched, manufactured or used in Australia. Some key findings in the report include:

• there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that engineered nanomaterials have a unique toxicity. However, sufficient toxicity tests have not yet been conducted for most engineered nanomaterials
• nanoparticles tend to be more bio-reactive, and hence potentially more toxic, than larger particles of the same material, and
• carbon nanotubes are potentially hazardous to health if inhaled in sufficient quantity.

Mr Phillips said that Safe Work Australia is liaising with other government agencies to undertake further work on nanomaterials in the workplace.

“Safe Work Australia has requested that the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme undertake a formal assessment of carbon nanotubes for hazard classification to clarify regulation of these nanomaterials.

“We have also requested that CSIRO develop guidance for the safe handling and disposal of carbon nanotubes, which will be a useful resource for OHS managers,” said Mr Phillips.

The reports and further information on the nanotechnology OHS program can be found at

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