What are nanomaterials?

A nanomaterial is defined as a natural, incidental or manufactured material containing particles, in an unbound state or as an aggregate or as an agglomerate and where, for 50 % or more of the particles in the number size distribution, one or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm - 100 nm (EU Commission).

What are the safety issues in working with nanomaterials? 

Nanomaterials are toxicologically quite novel. Their size allows interaction with biological molecules in a manner that is quite distinct from that of the bulk material. Furthermore complex nanomaterials are being specifically designed to interact with biological molecules. There are reports that inhalation of nanomaterials may cause local lung inflammation and allergic reactions, and that some nanoparticles may accumulate in body tissues and lead to cytotoxic effects in the liver and spleen.

Are there official standards on safe working with nanomaterials? 

The potential engineering and scientific applications for nanotechnology, and the benefits that it may bring, require a considered and careful approach to its safe use. Such is the interest in this area that the British Standards Institution produced two Published Documents in 2007: 

PD 6699-1:2007 Nanotechnologies • Part 1: Good practice guide for specifying manufactured materials; and 

PD 6699-2:2007 Nanotechnologies • Part 2: Guide to safe handling and disposal of manufactured materials. 

Part 2, in particular, gives much information on the hazards, risks, and control measures for handling nanomaterials. 

It is generally accepted that relevant regulations for systematic assessment of work with nanomaterials is lagging behind rapid progress in the field, and that health and environmental impact assessments are challenging. Risk assessment is key to nanoparticle health and safety as it is to all other aspects of chemical safety.

Is there other guidance on safe working with nanomaterials?

A useful recent article in Nature Nanotechnology (2018) A framework for sustainable nanomaterial selection and design based on performance, hazard, and economic considerations has links to current Environmental Health and Safety and Regulation and Risk Management issues.

Health and Safety Executive (UK)

Nano Safety (UK)

World Health Organisation

British Standards Institute (to source the PDs 6699 above)

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

Nature Article

European Commission