NIOSH Posts Impact Sheet Stating that Breathing Nanoparticles May Result in Damaging Health Effects

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has posted an October 2010 Impact Sheet entitled “NIOSH Research Methods Demonstrate that Breathing Nanoparticles May Result in Damaging Health Effects,” which reports the results of recently published research concerning the health effects of inhaling single-walled carbon nanotubes. According to the Impact Sheet, NIOSH scientists invented a way to suspend nanotubes in air, thus allowing for control of the concentration of particles, unlike previous studies, which dosed the mice through aspiration. NIOSH scientists placed the mice into a controlled environment where they would breathe the air containing the particles, and studied the effects of exposure after one, seven, and 28 days.  The Impact Sheet states that, although the effects were similar, the new results “demonstrated that carbon nanotubes were more potent when inhaled than when aspirated.”  According to NIOSH, “this research has shown early indications of serious health outcomes that may have longer term effects such as cancer, and therefore, ongoing research is important to more clearly understand the implications of exposure to carbon nanotubes.  This study and continued NIOSH research could soon help the development of occupational safety and health recommendations for carbon nanotubes that will protect the health of nanotechnology workers.”

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Charles L. Geraci, Jr. - November 3, 2010 9:50 AM

A couple of important points to make: These Impact Cards are a new communication tool developed by our Office of Health Communications to highlight research that has had an 'impact' on our research and on OS&H thinking. The research reported here is not brand new, but we wanted to make sure its overall impact was not lost. The real impact is twofold. First, NIOSH has developed a way to generate well characterized and controlled aerosols of CNTs for inhalation exposure studies. These studies are now more representative of human exposure in the workplace - the generation system has been duplicated by many research groups around the world. Second, the results from inhalation studies demonstrated that CNTs are more potent in aerosol form than previously seen in aspiration studies: same health effects, but seen at much lower concentrations. The key ending message is that these results validate even more the need for a protective risk management approach during any process involving possible exposure to unbound CNTs.

Charles L. Geraci, Jr., PhD, CIH
Coordinator, Nanotechnology Research Center National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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