Concerns related to Safety Management of Engineered Nanomaterials in research environment
Since the rise of occupational safety and health research on nanomaterials a lot of progress has been made in generating health effects and exposure data. However, when detailed quantitative risk analysis is in question, more research is needed, especially quantitative measures of workers exposure and standards to categorize toxicity/hazardousness data. In the absence of dose-response relationships and quantitative exposure measurements, control banding (CB) has been widely adopted by OHS community as a pragmatic tool in implementing a risk management strategy based on a precautionary approach. Being in charge of health and safety in a Swiss university, where nanomaterials are largely used and produced, we are also faced with the challenge related to nanomaterials' occupational safety. In this work, we discuss the field application of an in-house risk management methodology similar to CB as well as some other methodologies. The challenges and issues related to the process will be discussed. Since exact data on nanomaterials hazardousness are missing for most of the situations, we deduce that the outcome of the analysis for a particular process is essentially the same with a simple methodology that determines only exposure potential and the one taking into account the hazardousness of ENPs. It is evident that when reliable data on hazardousness factors (as surface chemistry, solubility, carcinogenicity, toxicity etc.) will be available, more differentiation will be possible in determining the risk for different materials. On the protective measures side, all CB methodologies are inclined to overprotection side, only that some of them suggest comprehensive protective/preventive measures and others remain with basic advices. The implementation and control of protective measures in research environment will also be discussed.