Safe Work with Nanoparticles through an Occupational Risk Management Approach and a Prevention Program

C. Ostiguy, L. Mnard, B. Roberge, and C.-A. Endo (Canada)


Nanoparticles — Risk Management — Prevention Program — Safe Work — Risk Assessment


Engineered nanoparticles (NPs) are developed in research laboratories and produced in industrial plants, where the most extensive exposures are likely to occur. Many toxicological studies have demonstrated various specific health risks related to the absorption of NPs but data are still limited and numerous uncertainties remain. On a mass basis, NPs are normally more toxic than the same substances in larger dimensions. These particles show size-dependent adverse biological effects, and occupational exposure must be maintained as low as possible. Our visits to occupational settings demonstrate that many workers are not aware of the potential risks and, in many situations, do not implement appropriate procedures to limit occupational exposure to these products. This article proposes a framework for occupational risk management with the objective of controlling exposure to NPs in a context of a major lack of specific data related to the toxicity of these substances and to the level of occupational exposure. The framework focuses on a structured approach dealing with hazard identification, exposure characterization, risk assessment and risk management. These are included in a prevention program that must be followed up, once it has been implemented, and refined through an iterative approach as new data become available.

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