Massachusetts State Government Explores Occupational Practices

On January 29, I attended the 2nd Annual Massachusetts Nanotechnology Workshop held in Boston, MA. The focus of the workshop, sponsored by the Massachusetts Interagency Nanotechnology Committee, a State governmental organization, was on best practices. As such it was a good meeting at which to represent the best practices work of ICON. The State of Massachusetts is home to two National Science Foundation research centers on nanomanufacturing [the Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing and the Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing] each of which makes important contributions to nano-safety research, as well as the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), which has become a leader in researching nanoparticle exposure assessment.
The one-day workshop was structured into three parts: an overview of nanotechnology and occupational issues, a breakout session organized around scenarios involving several representative nanoparticles, and an afternoon training session on state-of-the-art measurement techniques for nanoparticles. About 170 people from government, industry, consulting firms, insurance companies and academia were in attendance. The two introductory talks were the highlights of the meeting.
After introductory remarks from the Commissioners of the MA Department of Environmental Protection and the MA Division of Occupational Safety, Dr. Chuck Geraci of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) kicked off the morning session with news that NIOSH has issued an updated version of its Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology document. First published as an interim guidance document in 2006, Approaches is based on the latest applied research results as well as direct experience from NIOSH field studies at a variety of facilities throughout the US that produce or use nanomaterials. He emphasized that nanomaterial producers and users could learn much from the pharmaceutical industry’s experience with fine powders. He described several cases where specific engineering controls long in use by pharma such vessel charging hoods, small glove boxes and articulating arm connectors have been or could be reapplied to nanoparticle production. He asserted that reapplication of control technologies from fine or ultrafine particle production could prove to be very effective. In each case, an analysis of the individual situation is warranted to match the control with the task. At the conclusion of his talk he put in a plug for the ICON GoodNanoGuide and I was able to follow up with several key people who may become major contributors or supporters.
Next up was TURI director Dr. Mike Ellenbecker who described his research on occupational exposure in laboratory settings. His team, led by Candace Tsai and funded by CHN, has conducted studies of various ventilation systems using a smoke generator to trace airflow through the systems. Among the conclusions are that constant-velocity air curtain hoods are a good option, given that they are used properly. In some cases, a small handling enclosure such as a small glove box may be better suited to the task, especially where loss of sample is a problem. He also summarized research into the effectiveness of personal protective equipment (PPE). Latex and nitrile gloves were found to be effective against dermal contact for several hours until they became abraded or otherwise physically damaged. Cotton gloves were found to be too porous for use with nanoparticles. As for respiratory protection, HEPA filters were found to be effective but surgical masks were not. His published work can be found in the ICON Virtual Journal.

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