come in small particles
Hundreds of nanotechnology applications
are already in commercial production despite a huge health and safety
question mark. Hazards looks at how an industry the safety authorities
admit they know precious little about has been allowed to grow, unregulated,
into the biggest thing since the microchip.
Read the special online report, August 2004, and Hazards
87 feature [pdf]
CDC/NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin 60: Interim Guidance for Medical Screening and Hazard Surveillance for Workers Potentially Exposed to Engineered Nanoparticles, CDC/NIOSH, February 2009.
TUC nanotechnology factsheet
TUC calls for a "precautionary approach" to work with nanomaterials.
Nanotechnology and workplace safety
The US government safety research body
NIOSH has produced a short guide to nanotechnology health and safety.
The guide concludes: "There are still many knowledge gaps to be filled
before we fully understand how to work safely with these materials. Until
these and other research questions are answered, it is prudent to proceed
with caution when working with nanomaterials."
Nanotechnology and workplace safety and health
177, 9 October 2004
What's the problem with nanotechnology?
ETC answers key questions about the evidence, existing standards and what
workers should do.
The OECD Database on Research into Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials collects information on research projects that address environmental, human health and safety issues of manufactured nanomaterials
on Emerging Nanotechnologies
of the Earth nanotechnology project.
Europe: Worker protection is lost in nano-space
Effective measures to address health risks to workers are missing from Europe’s latest nanotechnology blueprint, trade unions have warned. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said the latest regulatory and job creation reviews on nanomaterials published by the European Commission pay insufficient attention to the protection of workers and adds “modifications” to the Europe-wide chemicals registration law REACH “are urgently needed to ensure the potential high risks of nanomaterials are properly controlled.”
ETUC news report • Risks 582
17 November 2012
Europe: Nanomaterials review won’t protect workers
Workers will remain at risk from nanomaterials under measures set out by the European Commission this month, a European trade union group has warned. ETUI, which is part of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and has a dedicated health and safety unit, was commenting after the publication on 3 October of the Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials. not sufficiently informed.”
European Commission news release and Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials • ETUI news report and 2010 working paper, The EU Approach to regulating Nanotechnologies • Risks 577
13 October 2012
Global: Nanotech dangers outlined
It has been known for some time that inhaling tiny fibres made by the nanotechnology industry could cause similar health problems to asbestos. This is borne out by new research by the University of Edinburgh published in Toxicology Sciences. Research on mice, suggests the longer nanofibres are even more dangerous. Some of these fibres are similar in shape to asbestos fibres, which cause lung cancers such as mesothelioma. Ken Donaldson, Professor of Respiratory Toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Concern has been expressed that new kinds of nanofibres being made by nanotechnology industries might pose a risk because they have a similar shape to asbestos.”
The threshold length for fibre-induced acute pleural inflammation: shedding light on the early events in asbestos-induced mesothelioma, Schinwald et al. Published online: May 12, 2012 Toxicological Science TUC nanotechnology guidance • Hazards nanotech webpages • Risks 570
25 August 2012
Global: Nano firms are putting workers at big risk
Many major companies working with nano particles are doing little or nothing to protect their staff - and some are using “safety” measures that are making matters worse, new research suggests. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) surveyed 78 international companies working with nanoparticles and found many are unsure about the right way to protect those handling the materials, or how to dispose of them.
New Haven Independent • Risks 523
17 September 2011
USA: Lack of nano regulation ‘a danger’
Health is being put at risk by the growing list of products on the market containing nano materials, a new report from the US-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) has warned. It says more than 1,300 products now claim to incorporate engineered nanomaterials (ENMs), but none of these products have undergone a pre-market safety assessment.
IATP news release • Risks 513
9 July 2011
Britain: Warning on carbon nanotubes dangers
Carbon nanotubes (CNT) may cause serious diseases, but lack of adequate information means safety datasheets are likely to be of little or no use, a new publication from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests. Its guide notes: “In view of the evidence for lung damage and lack of information on the effects of long-term repeated exposure a high level of control is warranted for CNTs.”
Green jobs, safe jobs blog • Risk management of carbon nanotubes [pdf] • HSE nanotechnology webpages • Risks 493
12 February 2011
Britain: New HSE nanotechnology webpages
A new Health and Safety Executive (HSE) nanotechnology webpage provides advice on the nature and use of nanotechnology and highlights on the “benefits of nanotechnology.” Potential health concerns are relegated down the webpage, but at least warn: “Where nanomaterials have an uncertain or not clearly defined toxicology and unless, or until, sound evidence is available on the hazards from inhalation, ingestion, or absorption a precautionary approach should be taken to the risk management.”
HSE nanotechnology webpages and guidance on the precautionary principle • Risks 492
5 February 2011
Australia: Unions want nano labels
Workers could be exposed to hazardous nano products at work, but never know it, unions in Australia have warned. Unions Tasmania secretary Simon Cocker told a nanotechnology seminar: “It is imperative that, thirty years from now, we do not experience another asbestos-like tragedy and bear the shame of a generation looking back at our inaction on this issue and asking the question: ‘Why didn’t they do something?’.”
Unions Tasmania news release [pdf] • Tasmanian Times • CosmeticsDesign.com • Risks 430
31 October 2009
Global: Deaths raise concerns over nano safety
Seven cases of occupational disease, two of them fatal, have been linked to nanomaterial exposures at work. A study published last week in the European Respiratory Journal reports the seven women employees at a Chinese factory suffered shortness of breath, fluid in the lungs and around the heart, non-specific inflammation of lung tissue, and fibrosis in the lungs.
Y Song, X Li, X Du. Exposure to nanoparticles is related to pleural effusion, pulmonary fibrosis and granuloma, European Respiratory Journal, published online 20 August 2009 [abstract] • IOM news release • 2020 Science blog • SAFENANO commentary • The Pump Handle • Jennifer Sass’ NRDC blog • Nature • Risks 421
Hazards news, 29 August 2009
USA: Warning to investors on nanotech risks
Nanotech firms are hiding potential long-term problems from investors who could face asbestos like liabilities from risks emerging over the coming decades. The warning comes in report from the Investor Environmental Health Network, a partnership of investment managers concerned about the financial and public health risks associated with corporate toxic chemicals policies.
Bridging the credibility gap: eight corporate liability accounting loopholes that regulators must close, Sanford Lewis IEHN report, June 2009 – full report [pdf] and related YouTube interview with Sanford Lewis • Cold Truth.com • Risks 412
27 June 2009
Global: Nanotubes can attack the immune system
Inhaling carbon nanotubes can suppress the immune system, according to new research. The findings raise possible health concerns for those working in the manufacture of the materials.
JD McDonald and others. Mechanisms for how inhaled multiwalled carbon nanotubes suppress systemic immune function in mice, Nature Nanotechnology. Published online: 14 Jue 2009. doi:10.1038/nnano.2009.151 [abstract] • The Guardian • Risk management of carbon nanotubes, HSE information sheet, March 2009 [pdf] • Risks 411
20 June 2009
Global: You may never know its nano
You may never know a product contains nanomaterials, because any mention is fast disappearing from product labels. Top experts addressing a meeting last week of consumer groups from the EU and US said some products containing nanoparticles do not mention this on their labels, while other firms are falsely claiming to have enhanced their products by using nanotechnology.
TACD conference presentations • Euractiv.com • Risks 411
20 June 2009
Europe: EU asks for views on nano risks
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the potential risks emerging from the use of nanomaterials. Unions have complained that the European Commission is overly complacent and that the EU should, in any case be following the line of the British HSE and demanding a precautionary approach to work with nanomaterials.
European Commission consultation notice • Risks 404
2 May 2009
Australia: Unions demand nanotech law
The rapidly growing nanotechnology market requires urgent regulation to protect the health and safety of workers and consumers, Australia’s unions have said. Unions are concerned at mounting evidence showing some nanomaterials are potentially hazardous yet the industry is growing without adequate worker protections.
ACTU news release and factsheet [pdf] • ABC News and related audio report • Sydney Morning Herald • The Age • Risks 402
18 April 2009
Europe: ‘No data, no market’ for nano
The European Parliament's environment committee is calling for tighter controls on nanotechnology, including the application of the ‘no data, no market’ principle contained in the REACH chemical safety law.
EEB news release [pdf] • REHS news report • ETUC news release and Nanocap conference presentation [pdf]
New resource: The OECD Database on Research into Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials collects information on research projects that address environmental, human health and safety issues of manufactured nanomaterials • Risks 401
11 April 2009
Australia: Protect workers from nano risks
Australian unions and industry are calling for urgent regulation to protect workers from the risks of nanotechnology. Steve Mullins of national union federation ACTU, a panel contributor, commented: “What is happening is the market is growing in an unregulated space and that is dangerous for workers. From our point of view we need regulation in place by the end of this year.”
ABC News • Audio of the nanotechnology and occupational health panel discussion • Risks 400
4 April 2009
USA: More damning evidence on nanotubes
A US government research body has confirmed that inhaled carbon nanotubes can penetrate deep into the lung and then migrate into other tissues. The scientists from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) say this raises a warning flag about a possible cancer risk, with the alert coming hot on the heels of a warning from the UK health and safety watchdog, which has called for “a precautionary approach” to the use of carbon nanotubes.
Andrew Schneider Investigates • The Pump Handle • Risks 399
28 March 2009
Finland: Researchers warn of nano catastrophe
There are over 600 products in the shops based on nanomaterials, but we know barely anything about the risks, a Finnish expert has warned. Kai Savolainen, director of nanotechnology safety research at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), said when the economic expectations are big, there is a tendency to ignore the health risks.
Trade Union News from Finland • Risks 398
21 March 2009
Britain: Official warning on nanotubes
The UK government’s workplace health and safety watchdog has called for “a precautionary approach” to the use of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) information sheet says: “If their use cannot be avoided, HSE expects a high-level of control to be used,” adding: “It is good practice to label the material ‘Caution: substance not yet fully tested.”
Risk management of carbon nanotubes, HSE information sheet, March 2009 [pdf] • Risks 397
14 March 2009
Europe: Nano differences start to surface
Concerns about the approach to the regulation and control of nanomaterials are surfacing in Europe. A British manufacturer of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) has pre-registered the product with Europe’s chemical watchdog as a substance distinct from other forms of carbon, which it says have dramatically different properties and the European Parliament has raised concerns about “potentially present significant new risks.”
Chemical Watch • Bioworld Today • Safenano • Risks 395
28 February 2009
Australia: ACTU publishes nano seminar papers
Australian national union federation ACTU has made available online the papers from its seminar on occupational health and safety and nanotechnology.
ACTU nano seminar presentations • Risks 393
14 February 2009
Canada: World’s first nanotech law due
The Canadian government is planning to release the world’s first national regulation requiring companies to detail their use of engineered nanomaterials, reports say. The information gathered under the requirement, which it is thought will be published in February, will be used to evaluate the risks of engineered nanomaterials and will help the development of appropriate safety measures to protect human health and the environment.
NEP news report • Risks 391
31 January 2009
USA: Nanotech safety may get higher priority
Draft legislation put forward by a top US government committee suggests nanotechnology safety may be set to take a higher priority. The House Science and Technology Committee has introduced new legislation, the latest recognition of the need to strengthen federal efforts to learn more about the potential environmental and health and safety risks posed by engineered nanomaterials.
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies news report • Risks 390
24 January 2009
USA: Report derides nanotech risk strategy
The US government's plans to research the potential health and environmental risks from engineered nanomaterials are woefully inadequate, an expert panel of the National Research Council has said. The highly critical report describes serious shortfalls in the Bush administration’s strategy to better understand the environmental and health and safety risks of nanotechnology and to effectively manage those potential risks.
National Research Council news release • Review of the federal strategy for nanotechnology-related environmental, health and safety research • The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies news report • ENS newswire • New York Times • Risks 387
20 December 2008
Britain: Nanotechnology controls are ‘inadequate’
Nanomaterials are likely to kill people in the future unless extensive safety checks are put in place, a Royal Commission report has said. The team of experts assessing the likely impacts of the emerging technology called for urgent action after concluding current testing arrangements “are inadequate” and there are “areas of particular concern regarding governance and regulation of nanomaterials.”
Royal Commission news release [pdf] • Novel materials in the environment: The case of nanotechnology Full report [pdf], summary report [pdf] and supporting studies • The Times • Telegraph • Daily Mail • BBC News Online • The Guardian • Risks 382
Hazards news, 15 November 2008
Global: Trade unions demand nano protection
Holland’s main union federation has called on the Dutch labour minister to introduce preventive measures for workers exposed to nanomaterials. In a letter dated 9 October, FNV notes: “The FNV cannot accept the existing indistinctness on the protective measures that should be taken by companies to assure sufficient protection when working with nanoparticles.”
HESA news report including a link to the full English language FNV letter • Risks 380
1 November 2008
Global: Real life work nano risks revealed
A paper published online in October in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene found that measures of real-time worker exposure during a nanoparticle manufacturing process showed “elevated number concentrations during production, which can be an order of magnitude higher than background levels.” The authors conclude: “These results are important for workers, employers and regulators in the nanotechnology field as they provide information on encountered exposures and possibilities for mitigation measures.”
Evangelia Demou, Philippe Peter and Stefanie Hellweg. Exposure to manufactured nanostructured particles in an industrial pilot plant, Annals of Occupational Hygiene Advance Access, published online on 17 October 2008. doi:10.1093/annhyg/men058. [abstract] • Risks 380
1 November 2008
Carbon nanotubes cancer review
Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) has released an overview of the
key studies investigating the potential for carbon nanotubes to cause
asbestos-like disease. FoEA says despite health concerns, commercial use
of carbon nanotubes is growing rapidly – in sports goods, car and
aeroplane parts, reinforced plastics and electronics.
note and full report, Mounting evidence that carbon nanotubes may
be the new asbestos [pdf]
Hazards news, 6 September 2008
Nanotech needs to learn lessons
Industry, government and scientists must learn the lessons of past health
and safety tragedies to ensure the safe and responsible development of
emerging nanotechnologies, a report has warned. The expert analysis in
the journal Nature Nanotechnology applies the 12 “late lessons from
early warnings” identified by the European Environment Agency (EEA)
on Emerging Nanotechnologies news report • Steffen Foss Hansen,
Andrew Maynard, Anders Baun and Joel A Tickner. Late
lessons from early warnings for nanotechnology, Nature Nanotechnology,
Advance online publication • Risks
Hazards news, 9 August 2008
Top union body calls for nano precaution
Europe’s trade union confederation ETUC has called for the precautionary
principle to be applied to nanotechnologies. It says “significant
uncertainties” revolve around potential benefits of nanotechnologies
and their harmful effects on human health and the environment.
on nanotechnologies and nanomaterials • Risks
Hazards news, 5 July 2008
Top medical journal backs nano precaution
The Lancet Oncology, one of the world’s top cancer journals, has
called for the precautionary principle to be used when dealing with nanotechnologies.
Edge: Space elevators, tennis racquets, and mesothelioma, The Lancet
Oncology, volume 9, number 7, page 601, July 2008. DOI:10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70157-8
Hazards news, 5 July 2008
‘Asbestos warning’ on nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes might be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled, according
to a study. A paper in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology reports
that animal studies indicate that these long and very thin carbon molecules
could cause mesothelioma, a cancer previously associated almost exclusively
with asbestos exposure.
Craig A Poland and others. Carbon nanotubes introduced into the abdominal
cavity of mice show asbestos-like pathogenicity in a pilot study.
Nanotechnology Online 20 May 2008. doi:10.1038/nnano.2008.111 [abstract]
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies news release • Risks
Hazards news, 24 May 2008
Patchy progress on better Euro laws
Leading Socialist Euro MPs have celebrated European Parliament approval
this week of a report calling for new measures to protect the health and
safety of Europe's workers. They expressed shock, however, after Conservatives
and Liberals blocked inclusion of clauses calling for action on crystalline
silica, a cancer-causing substance to which over 3 million workers in
the European Union (EU) are routinely exposed, and on nanotechnology risks.
Parliament resolution of 15 January 2008 on the Community strategy 2007–2012
on health and safety at work (2007/2146(INI)) • Risks
Hazards news, 19 January 2008
Warning on ‘large risks with tiny particles’
Firms developing nanotechnologies must take a precautionary approach to
the sector to prevent environment and health risks, the Swedish chemicals
inspectorate said in a report released on 31 October. “Companies
should apply special precautions in the development and use of nanomaterials,”
Kemi said, because of the “rapid development in this area and the
great lack of knowledge about risks.”
release and report [pdf]
• Hazards nanotechnology
news and resources
Hazards news, 10 November 2007
Unions call for strong nano rules
Australia’s top union body has added its voice to that of other
campaigners concerned about the risks posed by the unregulated development
of a massive nanotechnology industry. ACTU national safety officer Steve
Mullins said: “By signing this declaration, the ACTU is sending
the clear message that profit at the expense of workers lives will not
ACTU news release [pdf]
• ICTA Principles for Nanotechnologies [pdf]
• Hazards nanotechnology news
Hazards news, 29 September 2007
Nanotech needs strong oversight says coalition
A strong, comprehensive oversight of nanotechnology and its products is
urgently required, a broad international coalition of consumer, public
health, environmental, trade union and civil society organisations spanning
six continents has said. A new statement, ‘Principles for the oversight
of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials’, warns that nanomaterials
already in use may pose significant health, safety, and environmental
International Center for Technology Assessment news release.
Principles for the oversight of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials
• Hazards nanotechnology
Hazards news, 4 August 2007
Groups reject ‘voluntary’ nano checks
The environmental and occupational risks posed
by exposure to nano products must not be subject to only voluntary controls,
a broad-based coalition has warned. The national and international trade
union and civil society groups last week issued a joint public statement
condemning efforts by DuPont Chemical Company and the influential US Environmental
Defense (ED, formerly Environmental Defense Fund) to promote a voluntary
“risk assessment” framework for nanotechnology.
Risks 302, 21 April 2007
• IUF news
release and full text of letter [pdf]
Government ‘failing’ on nano safety
The UK government has failed to fund adequate research into potential
health risks posed by nanotechnology, a report by its leading scientific
advisers has warned. The Council for Science and Technology’s (CST)
‘Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies Review’ bemoans a “lack
of progress on research into toxicology, health and environmental effects
Risks 300, 31 March 2007 • Hazards
nanotechnology webpages • FoE
Australia nanotechnology project
Five-step check for nano safety
A team of experts has drawn up five “grand challenges” to
evaluate the safety of nanotechnology. Writing in the journal Nature,
the team says that fears about nanotechnology's possible dangers may be
exaggerated, but not necessarily unfounded.
Risks 284, 25 November 2006
Will nano products come off the rails?
If you thought nanotechnology was space age, think again. It could be
going down the Tube. Rail union ASLEF reports that Transport for London
(TfL) is considering the use of nano-based anti-flu disinfectants on its
trains, with reports they could be applied on an industrial scale in both
mainline and tube trains and stations.
Risks 280, 28 October 2006
Design a nano-hazard symbol
They’ve all got one – everyone can recognise the nuclear hazard
symbol and even the Cap’n Jack Sparrow generation are more likely
to think “toxic” than “pirate” when they see a
skull-and-crossbones. But there’s nothing out there to warn you
when you are about to dip into a barrel of nano-nasties – so top
nano-hazards campaigning organisation ETC Group has launched an international
Risks 278, 14 October 2006 • Further
details of the Nano-Hazards symbol design competition
TUC warning on take-it-or-leave it nanotech scheme
The TUC has said that a new voluntary scheme on reporting of nanotechnology
related risks is not sufficiently robust a system. The TUC warning came
after last week’s Defra launch of its Voluntary Reporting Scheme.
Risks 276, 30 September 2006
Nanotechnology probe announced
A nanotechnology policy review has been ordered by the government, two
years after an officially commissioned report raised safety concerns.
Ministers have asked the Council for Science and Technology (CST) to undertake
an independent review of the government's response to a 2004 report which
called for a precautionary approach and concluded the existing laws on
safety and nanotechnology - products produced using microscopic engineering
of substances - were not up to the job and must be reviewed, with additional
requirements introduced on testing and labelling.
Risks 265, 15 July 2006
Toxic warnings for nano industry
Hundreds of nanotechnology products about to hit shop shelves have not
been properly tested for their safety, a top workplace and environmental
health expert has warned. Edinburgh-based Professor Anthony Seaton said
concerns tiny particles from the products might cause respiratory, cardiac
and immune problems had not been properly assessed.
Risks 256, 13 May 2006
Workplace nanotech concerns grow
Workers are guinea pigs in a massive and potentially dangerous nanotech
experiment, new reports from Germany and the US suggest.
Risks 252, 15 April 2006
Call for nanotechnology safety controls
Amid growing evidence that some of the tiniest materials ever engineered
pose potentially big health, safety and environmental risks, momentum
is building in the US Congress, environmental circles and in the industry
itself to beef up federal oversight of the new nanomaterials, which are
already showing up in dozens of consumer products.
Risks 236, 10 December 2005
Unions say nano-loopholes may hurt workers
Unions are warning that thousands of Australian workers could be being
exposed to potentially dangerous nanoparticles. They are calling for urgent
regulation and say they could even press for nanoparticle production to
Risks 223, 10 September 2005
Government orders another nanotech review
Demands for action on the potential health risks of nanotechnology
have been met with another government review. Science minister Lord Sainsbury
said this would ensure current regulations that safeguard the environment
and people's health remained robust.
Risks 197, 5 March 2005
and Safety Executive nanotechnology webpages
FoE Australia nanotech website
Europe: Literature Review - Workplace exposure to nanoparticles, European Risk Observatory, June 2009. Full report [pdf]
report highlights nanotech problems
HSE-backed research has shown that TUC concerns about nanoparticle
safety are clearly justified. [23 October 2004]
Resources Defense Council Nanotechnologies: Tiny particles promise
much, but could pose big risk.
group - action group on erosion, technology and concentration.
Center for Technology Assessment
International Symposium on Nanotechnology and Occupational Health
Final Report, available online 1 July 2005.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health nanotechnology and
health topic page.
Valley Toxics Coalition nanotech webpage
Nanotechnology and nanoscience.
Royal Society and
Royal College of Engineering website.
nanotechnology website, European Commission.
European Nanotechnology Gateway.