Reducing Nanoparticle exposures in Industrial Workplaces
The evaluation of the occupational exposure to nanoparticles (NPs) in industrial working areas is a generalised challenge due to the wide variety of NPs sources. These sources are mainly related to the nanomaterials (NMPs) manipulation and synthesis and to the NPs creation in highly energetic processes (PGNPs).
Even though the first ones are intentionally designed and produced for specific purposes, the second ones are generated and unintentionally released to the ambient air of the working area during several processes of high energy such as fuel combustions, plasma cutting, soldering, grinding, baking, etc. These industrial processes can be defined as PGNPs permanent generators (They can generate up to several millions of particles/cm3) and can lead to chronic exposures if they are no identified as such, if they are omitted or if the control measures are not properly designed.
These industrial processes can be defined as PGNPs permanent generators (They can generate up to several millions of particles/cm3) and can lead to chronic exposures if they are no identified as such, if they are omitted or if the control measures are not properly designed.
The scope of the legislative framework: the MNMs are covered by the regulatory framework which guarantees the safe use of chemicals (REACH and CLP regulations) and by the specific sectoral legislation as the food, biocides and cosmetics legislation. The objective is to guarantee the MNMs safe handle in the workplace. On the contrary, for the PGNPs there is a lack of specific legislation. It is only available a set of non-binding recommendations known as Nanoreference values.
The absence of tools to evaluating the risks. These tools have mainly been designed for MNMs in the REACH regulation and therefore they do not apply for the PGNPs. They focus on the control bands. Current researches indicate a low correlation (<50%) between the model estimates and the actual observations.
The lack of specific risk management measures (RMM) as personal protective equipment (EPI) and engineering controls. Although the EPI efficiency for nanomaterials has been widely studied, the available data about the engineering controls are often inconclusive, especially regarding actual operating conditions in industrial workplaces.
All these weaknesses need to be addressed to fulfil the EC legislation about working people health and security with respect to potential risks of nanomaterials at work (89/391/CEE). As well as to provide to the policy-makers, the responsible authorities in charge of the risks evaluation, professionals and the working people the tools and technologies for an appropriate solution which address the PGNPs risks for the health and environment.