The Future of Risk Management for Nanomaterials

Lab Safety


It’s a rule of media advertising that smaller is cuter, especially small, furry animals with big eyes. But where is the cut-off point for how small cute can get? Obviously many people think kittens are cute, and they are pretty small. Little figurines are pretty cute. And those healthy bacteria in our yogurt, so adorable. Wait a second, that’s not right! In the world of things smaller than the eye can see, we have the nanomaterials, the nanotubes and the nanotech. A focus on the safety of nanomaterials is following on the heels of an explosion of industrial applications.


Nanomaterials Are Found In Many Products and All Along the Supply Chain

We can’t see them, but nanomaterials are all around us. They are found in many places, perhaps even right under our fingers. Various nanomaterials, from graphene to nanowires made from III-V materials, are replacing transistors in chips. This is taking the “silicon” out of Silicon Valley, what a shift!


Medicine is another field that is seeing advances in nanotechnology. Even presently, we have the words nanomedicine and nanotreatments. Everything that happens in the body occurs at a cellular and molecular level, so our doctors and other medical pioneers are creating tools to work at the root levels of our bodies. Here at ChemSW, we are keeping up with these changes with attendance at the International Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference. This is a meeting of the minds in molecular medicine, drug discovery, genomics, diagnostics and information technology.


Nanotech Is Here To Stay So What Do Safety Regulations Say About It?

A buzz question these days concerns safety regulations for nanomaterials. Are the current workplace regulations adequate to cover nanomaterials? Without being alarmist, we want to know what are the health, safety and environmental risks? What are the proper handling procedures and emergency responses? These are valid questions and safety professionals are working delivering answers.

On June 10, 2013, the Belgian agency called the Federal Public Service for Health, Food Chain Safety, and Environment, posted a final report about nanomaterials and products containing nanomaterials. What they found shouldn’t be surprising. According to data from companies and market research, nanomaterials are found in the Belgian market in a variety of products. They are also showing up all along the entire supply chain.

One of the questions of the report was whether they should require labs to declare and trace nanomaterials. The agency recommended a nano-register with some exemptions and a rollout phase that responds to the costs associated with the registry.


Another group is working on creating a forum for the many safety professionals working on nano safety in countries around the world. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released 6 years of data on nanomaterial technology. They found good news – the current safety approaches are “in general appropriate for assessing the nanomaterials.” They suggest that some new approaches may be needed for sample testing and dosimetry. Overall, “it will not be necessary to develop completely new approaches for nanomaterials.

This topic was also discussed at the Helsinki Chemicals Forum in an industry panel discussion of Nano Safety moderated by Rob Visser, former deputy director of the OECD. He spoke of the recent OECD report and also the European Union’s Second Regulatory Review on nanomaterials. In this review, we hear that nanomaterials are similar to normal chemicals in that some are toxic and some are not. We still need to use risk assessments, just as we would for other potentially toxic substances.

At ChemSW, we love safety and we offer several inventory safety solutions for tracking potentially hazardous materials. Please visit our website for more information on our products.

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