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Nanotechnology Safety

Nanoparticles are ultrafine particles measuring in one dimension between 1 -100 nanometers (nm). Nanotechnology involves the use of nanoscale structures, devices and systems that may have utility in biological or other systems that require nanoscale applications.  Nanotechnology comprises the study of processes, application and materials related to biological, chemical, electronic, physical or engineering applications. Ina addition, to the novel size of nanoparticles or structures, uses are derived from unique properties related to reactivity or conductivity.

Safety Issues

Concerns with safety regarding the use of nanotechnology have arisen primarily from the recognition of several unique attributes of nanoparticles:

  • The ultra-small particle size permits the particles to be carried deeply into tissue-particles may be deeply respired into the lings; may pass through the blood-brain barrier; or translocate between organs.
  • The molecular structure of nanoparticles and the relatively greater surface area confer these particles different chemical reactivities that for larger structures made from the same elements or molecules.

Some evidence suggest that nanoparticles may be more toxic to tissue than larger structures. In addition to concerns about toxicity of nanoparticles that are inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the dermal exposure during initial contact, nanoparticles waste may present a hazard to the environment.

The widespread use of nanoparticles in research and development for manufacturing and biomedical purposes has outpaced research of safety issues.  The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) and other agencies are currently studying this issue, and improved guidelines for handling and disposal are emerging slowly.  Currently, agencies charged with providing safety guidelines, including NIOSH, the NIH and the EPA, promote the incorporation of cautionary measures in research, with a view toward minimizing or eliminating exposures to nanoparticles.

Nanoparticle Research at Temple University

Temple University has developed the following handling guidelines to address the health concerns associated with nanoparticle exposure. Safety issues related to individual programs may be evaluated by EHRS staff at the request of the individual researcher or department personnel or determine if alternate exposure control methods may be employed to adequately safeguard the health of Temple University personnel and mitigate potential adverse impacts to the environment.

Nanomaterial Handling Recommendations:

  • Total enclosure of the particle handling process-Nanoparticle stocks that are dry should be handled inside an appropriate glovebox.
  • Workers should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including safety goggles, lab coats and gloves if handling or transporting materials outside of a glovebox.  See AIHA PPE recommendations for work with nanoparticles.
  • Total enclosure of stored stock solution of nanomaterials.
  • Nanoparticle solutions, or nanoparticles bound in a matrix or to proteins can be handled on the lab bench like any non-volatile chemicals once placed into solution. Workers should wear appropriate PPE (safety goggles, lab coat, gloves) at all times.
  • Transport of nanomaterials should employ a sealed secondary containment device.
  • Limit access in areas where process are being carried out. Only trained personnel may be permitted to work in these arras while nanomaterials are being used. Training and Standard Operating procedures (SOP) must be implemented before beginning work with nanomaterials.
  • Nanoparticle waste must be collected and properly labeled and stored in compliance with Temple University waste management program. Refer to the Waste Management  for specific information on waste management or to request a pickup.
  • Nanoparticles spill should be cleaned immediately using spill mitigation procedures developed by the laboratory. Contact EHRS if you require assistance in developing a spill control plan.
  • Routine cleaning of benchtops, floors and other surfaces should be implemented.
  • Equipment used for the handling of nanoparticles must be evaluated for safety concerns before it may be repaired, reused for other laboratory purposes or release for disposal.
  • Contact EHRS prior to using any respiratory protection devices (disposable respirator, dust masks, N95, sir purifying, etc...)   The use of all types of respiratory protection at Temple University is governed by the OSHA standards and the Temple University Respiratory Protection Program. All uses of respirators at Temple University shall comply with the Temple University Respiratory Protection Program prior to first use.
  • Prohibition of eating or drinking in laboratories and controlled areas.

Contact EHRS at 215-707-2520 to request an evaluation of safety protocols or assistance in the development of safe handling protocols in your research program.

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