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Title: Control Banding and Nanotechnology Synergist

The average Industrial Hygienist (IH) loves a challenge, right? Okay, well here is one with more than a few twists. We start by going through the basics of a risk assessment. You have some chemical agents, a few workers, and the makings of your basic exposure characterization. However, you have no occupational exposure limit (OEL), essentially no toxicological basis, and no epidemiology. Now the real handicap is that you cannot use sampling pumps, cassettes, tubes, or any of the media in your toolbox, and the whole concept of mass-to-dose is out the window, even at high exposure levels. Of course, by the title, you knew we were talking about nanomaterials (NM). However, we wonder how many IHs know that this topic takes everything you know about your profession and turns it upside down. It takes the very foundations that you worked so hard in college and in the field to master and pulls it out from underneath you. It even takes the gold standard of our profession, the quantitative science of exposure assessment, and makes it look pretty darn rusty. Now with NM there is the potential to get some aspect of quantitative measurements, but the instruments are generally verymore » expensive and getting an appropriate workplace personal exposure measurement can be very difficult if not impossible. The potential for workers getting exposures, however, is very real, as evidenced by a recent publication reporting worker exposures to polyacrylate nanoparticles in a Chinese factory (Song et al. 2009). With something this complex and challenging, how does a concept as simple as Control Banding (CB) save the day? Although many IHs have heard of CB, most of their knowledge comes from its application in the COSHH Essentials toolkit. While there is conflicting published research on COSHH Essentials and its value for risk assessments, almost all of the experts agree that it can be useful when no OELs are available (Zalk and Nelson 2008). It is this aspect of CB, its utility with uncertainty, that attracted international NM experts to recommend this qualitative risk assessment approach for NM. However, since their CB recommendation was only in theory, we took on the challenge of developing a working toolkit, the CB Nanotool (see Zalk et al. 2009 and Paik et al. 2008), as a means to perform a risk assessment and protect researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. While it's been acknowledged that engineered NM have potentially endless benefits for society, it became clear to us that the very properties that make nanotechnology so useful to industry could also make them dangerous to humans and the environment. Among the uncertainties and unknowns with NM are: the contribution of their physical structure to their toxicity, significant differences in their deposition and clearance in the lungs when compared to their parent material (PM), a lack of agreement on the appropriate indices for exposure to NM, and very little background information on exposure scenarios or populations at risk. Part of this lack of background information can be traced to the lack of risk assessments historically performed in the industry, with a recent survey indicating that 65% of companies working with NM are not doing any kind of NM-specific risk assessment as they focus on traditional PM methods for IH (Helland et al. 2009). The good news is that the amount of peer-reviewed publications that address environmental, health and safety aspects of NM has been increasing over the last few years; however, the percentage of these that address practical methods to reduce exposure and protect workers is orders of magnitude lower. Our intent in developing the CB Nanotool was to create a simplified approach that would protect workers while unraveling the mysteries of NM for experts and non-experts alike. Since such a large part of the toxicological effects of both the physical and chemical properties of NM were unknown, not to mention changing logarithmically as new NM research continues growing, we needed to account for this lack of information as part of the CB Nanotool's risk assessment. We chose a standardized 4 X 4 risk matrix (see figure 1) as our starting point, working with the severity parameters on one axis and the probability parameters on the other. The development of the severity axis was certainly the hardest part of our effort. This required the dissection of NM and its physicochemical properties which are often unknown, adding information on the PM which is far more available, and somehow scoring these input factors in a manner that appropriately weighted each factor. We decided to give unknown input factors a score of 75% of the points for each category, because otherwise the instinct of considering it as extremely dangerous would kick in and the highest level of control would almost always be the outcome.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
TRN: US201010%%82
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: The Synergist, vol. 21, no. 3, March 1, 2010, pp. 26-29; Journal Volume: 21; Journal Issue: 3
Research Org:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Livermore, CA
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States