, 16:2153,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 07 Dec 2013

Occupational safety and health criteria for responsible development of nanotechnology

Abstract

Organizations around the world have called for the responsible development of nanotechnology. The goals of this approach are to emphasize the importance of considering and controlling the potential adverse impacts of nanotechnology in order to develop its capabilities and benefits. A primary area of concern is the potential adverse impact on workers, since they are the first people in society who are exposed to the potential hazards of nanotechnology. Occupational safety and health criteria for defining what constitutes responsible development of nanotechnology are needed. This article presents five criterion actions that should be practiced by decision–makers at the business and societal levels—if nanotechnology is to be developed responsibly. These include (1) anticipate, identify, and track potentially hazardous nanomaterials in the workplace; (2) assess workers’ exposures to nanomaterials; (3) assess and communicate hazards and risks to workers; (4) manage occupational safety and health risks; and (5) foster the safe development of nanotechnology and realization of its societal and commercial benefits. All these criteria are necessary for responsible development to occur. Since it is early in the commercialization of nanotechnology, there are still many unknowns and concerns about nanomaterials. Therefore, it is prudent to treat them as potentially hazardous until sufficient toxicology, and exposure data are gathered for nanomaterial-specific hazard and risk assessments. In this emergent period, it is necessary to be clear about the extent of uncertainty and the need for prudent actions.