Characterizing Adoption of Precautionary Risk Management Guidance for Nanomaterials, an Emerging Occupational Hazard
Exposure to engineered nanomaterials (substances with at least one dimension of 1–100 nm) has been of increased interest, with the recent growth in production and use of nanomaterials worldwide. Various organizations have recommended methods to minimize exposure to engineered nanomaterials. The purpose of this study was to evaluate available data to examine the extent to which studied U.S. companies (which represent a small fraction of all companies using certain forms of engineered nanomaterials) follow the guidelines for reducing occupational exposures to engineered nanomaterials that have been issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other organizations. Survey data, field reports, and field notes for all NIOSH nanomaterial exposure assessments conducted between 2006 and 2011 were collected and reviewed to: (1) determine the level of adoption of precautionary guidance on engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE), and (2) evaluate the reliability of companies’ self-reported use of engineering controls and PPE. Use of PPE was observed among 89% [95% confidence interval (CI): 76%–96%] of 46 visited companies, and use of containment-based engineering controls for at least some processes was observed among 83% (95% CI: 76%–96%). In on-site evaluations, more than 90% of the 16 engineered carbonaceous nanomaterial companies that responded to an industrywide survey were observed to be using engineering controls and PPE as reported or more stringently than reported. Since PPE use was slightly more prevalent than engineering controls, better communication may be necessary to reinforce the importance of the hierarchy of controls. These findings may also be useful in conducting exposure assessment and epidemiologic research among U.S. workers handling nanomaterials.