REDUCING NANOPARTICLE EXPOSURES IN INDUSTRIAL WORKPLACES
The assessment of the exposure to nanomaterials in industrial workplaces is a widespread challenge due to the high diversity of nanoparticle sources. These form two main categories: manufactured nanomaterials (MNM) and process-generated nanoparticles (PGNP). MNM are intentionally designed and manufactured for specific purposes, and for this reason they have been widely studied. However, PGNP are unintentionally released to workplace environments during different industrial activities, and therefore they remain unknown.
PGNP are generated in high-energy processes such as burning fuels, plasma cutting, welding, metal grinding and ceramic tile firing. These industrial processes are considered as permanent releasers of PGNP (up to several million nanoparticles/cm3), which may lead to chronic exposures and diseases if these sources are not recognised as such and if control measures are omitted or not adequately designed. Currently, the exposure assessment of PGNP faces several barriers:
- The scope of the legislative framework, which covers MNM (REACH, CLP and sectoral regulations for food, cosmetics and biocides) but does not consider PGNP. Only a set of non-binding recommendations referred to as Nanoreference Values and originally established for MNM are commonly applied to PGNP. PGNP concentrations in industrial settings range between 6*104 and >106 particles/cm3, while the Nanoreference Values typically applied to PGNP set maximum thresholds of 4*104 particles/cm3. However, there is no regulation in place for the reduction of these PGNP concentrations.
- The absence of Risk Assessment Tools applicable to PGNP, although they have been developed for MNM under the REACH regulation. Research has highlighted the low correlation (<50%) between model estimates and actual observations for PGNP.
- The lack of targeted Risk Management Measures. The efficacy of personal protective equipment for nanomaterials has been widely studied, but in the case of engineering measures available data are often inconclusive, especially in industrial environments under real operating conditions.
The main objective of the LIFE NANOHEALTH project is to reduce occupational exposure to PGNP from permanently releasing industrial processes by optimising the performance of Risk Management Measures in indoor exposure scenarios. The aim is to clearly define the levels of concentration and risks posed by PGNP generated in industrial processes, as well as develop models for simulating the dispersion of PGNP in indoor air and draw up engineering measures for minimising PGNP in industrial environments.
The project will contribute to meeting EU legislation on health and safety of workers regarding the risk of nanomaterials at work in a cost-effective way, providing policy makers, authorities, professionals and workers with a set of tools and technologies that will offer adequate solutions for addressing these risks.
Contact: Mar Viana