Safety practices surveyed

As companies and laboratories work with nanotechnology, they largely rely on the same safety practices that they use when working with conventional chemicals, a survey reports.

There are no regulations or voluntary standards for operations using nanomaterials. In the United States, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has provided general guidance on handling the materials, notes Kristen Kulinowski, director of the International Council on Nanotechnology at Rice University in Houston, which released the survey results Nov. 13.

Sixty-four companies, research organizations, and universities from the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia responded to the survey. Overall, the organizations expressed concern that nanomaterials carry special risks. But with little risk information, says Kulinowski, organizations must derive safety practices “from knowledge they’ve gained of materials of the same chemical composition but in a larger form.

“The question is whether nanoscale materials warrant any additional information, scrutiny, tests, or personal protective equipment,” adds Kulinowski. “Right now, we don’t have the answers for that.”

Aimee Cunningham

Aimee Cunningham is the biomedical writer. She has a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University.

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