On January 24, 2019, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a document entitled Continuing to Protect the Nanotechnology Workforce: NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Plan for 2018-2025. NIOSH is using the Nanotechnology Research Plan for fiscal years (FY) 2018-2025 as a roadmap to advance: (1) understanding of nanotechnology-related toxicology and workplace exposures; and (2) implementation of appropriate risk management practices during the discovery, development, and commercialization of engineered nanomaterials along their product lifecycle. According to the Research Plan, the proposed NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) research goals for FYs 2018-2025 focus on specific research needs to fill knowledge gaps and the Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) priority research needs of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). The goals also align with the NIOSH Strategic Plan for FYs 2019-2023. The Nanotechnology Research Plan’s Strategic Goals include:
- Increase understanding of new nanomaterials and related health risks to nanomaterial workers;
- Build upon initial data and information to further increase understanding of the initial hazard findings of engineered nanomaterials;
- Build upon initial guidance materials to further inform nanomaterial workers, employers, health professionals, regulatory agencies, and decision-makers about hazards, risks, and risk management approaches;
- Support epidemiologic studies for nanomaterial workers, including medical, cross-sectional, prospective cohort, and exposure studies; and
- Assess and promote national and international adherence with risk management guidance.
Each Strategic Goal includes intermediate and activity goals. Based on burden, need, and impact, the Nanotechnology Research Plan states that the following goals are the top three priorities for the NTRC:
- Priority 1 — Strategic Goal 1: Increase understanding of new nanomaterials and related health risks to nanomaterial workers. Impact: This research will contribute to the body of knowledge about the adverse health effects in animals exposed to various engineered nanomaterials. The findings will have a direct impact on the risk assessment of potential outcomes for exposed workers; contribute to epidemiologic research; and provide background that can be used to create guidance on control technologies and medical surveillance.
- Priority 2 — Strategic Goal 3: Build upon initial guidance materials to inform nanomaterial workers, employers, health professionals, regulatory agencies, and decision-makers about hazards, risks, and risk management approaches. Impact: Various target audiences such as nanotechnology workers and employers, occupational safety and health professionals, policy-makers, decision-makers, and/or the scientific community in research, manufacturing, construction, mining, oil and gas, and healthcare will begin or continue to apply NIOSH guidance to develop, handle, and commercialize engineered nanomaterials responsibly. Through strategic planning, research, partnering with stakeholders, and making information widely available, the NTRC will continue supporting the responsible development of nanotechnology by translating research into effective risk management guidance and practices across the lifecycle of engineered nanomaterial-enabled products.
- Priority 3 — Activity/Output Goal 3.1.3: Use a nanomaterial hazard banding classification scheme to group engineered nanomaterials. Impact: This research will investigate the evidence for developing predictive algorithms of structure-activity relationships and comparative toxicity for use in quantitative risk assessment. Findings from this research will provide the scientific basis for developing occupational exposure limits for individual nanomaterials or groups of nanomaterials.