Transport - Overview - EHS - Text

Exposure to nanomaterials in the transport sector may be quite diverse. Three categories of subsectors were identified within the NanoData project – use in infrastructure, use in vehicles and use in operations (e.g. catalysts and sensors). An analysis was undertaken of human health and safety aspects of the more commonly used materials for transport including aluminium, aluminium oxide, calcium carbonate, carbon (in the form of nanotubes), cerium oxide, cobalt oxide, magnesium hydroxide, nanoclays, silica and titanium dioxide. The selection was based on their common usage and/or likely future usage in transport. One additional material was identified, magnesium/aluminium or magnalium in the form of nanoparticles, but there were no data available on this alloy so no assessment could be made. All other combinations of nanoparticles and sectors were evaluated.

The basis for the evaluation was “Stoffenmanager Nano” application [1,2] a risk-banding tool developed for employers and employ­ees to prioritise health risks occurring as a result of respiratory exposure to nanoparticles for a broad range of worker scenarios.

The respiratory route is the main route of exposure for many occupational scenarios, while the oral route of exposure is considered minor and sufficiently covered, from a safety point of view, by good hygiene practices established in production facilities as prescribed through general welfare provisions in national health and safety legislation in EU countries [3]. In view of the nature of the products in this sector, oral exposure of consumers is also considered to be minor.

The dermal route may be the main route of exposure for some substances or exposure situations, and cause local effects on the skin or systemic effects after absorption into the body [4]. However, nanoparticles as such are very unlikely to penetrate the skin [5] and consequently nano-specific systemic toxicity via the dermal route is improbable. Therefore, when evaluating risks from nanotechnology for the respiratory route, the most important aspects of occupational and consumer safety are covered.

Due to the high expected exposure, all nanomaterials reach the highest risk priority during the production phase, except calcium carbonate (intermediate priority). In the use phase, aluminium (oxide), calcium carbonate, cerium oxide, magnesium hydroxide and titanium dioxide have a low risk priority, nanoclay has an intermediate priority, while carbon nanotubes and cobalt oxide have the highest risk priority. It should be noted that in the use phase all nanomaterials are contained in a solid matrix, meaning exposure will be negligible and thus health risks will be low. In the end-of-life phase, risk management/evaluation of transport materials containing carbon nanotubes and cobalt oxide should receive the highest priority, while the materials containing the remainder of the listed nanomaterials should receive intermediate priority.

[1] Marquart, H., Heussen, H., Le Feber, M., Noy, D., Tielemans, E., Schinkel, J., West, J., Van Der Schaaf, D., 2008. 'Stoffenmanager', a web-based control banding tool using an exposure process model. Ann. Occup. Hyg. 52, 429-441.

[2] Van Duuren-Stuurman, B., Vink, S., Verbist, K.J.M., Heussen, H.G.A., Brouwer, D., Kroese, D.E.D., Van Niftrik, M.F.J., Tielemans, E., Fransman, W., 2012. Stoffenmanager Nano version 1.0: a web-based tool for risk prioritization of airborne manufactured nano objects. Ann. Occup. Hyg. 56, 525-541.

[3] ECHA, 2012. Chapter R.14: Occupational exposure estimation in: Anonymous Guidance on Information Requirements and Chemical Safety Assessment., Version: 2.1 ed. European Chemicals Agency, Helsinki, Finland.

[4] Ibid

[5] Watkinson, A.C., Bunge, A.L., Hadgraft, J., Lane, M.E., 2013. Nanoparticles do not penetrate human skin - A theoretical perspective. Pharm. Res. 30, 1943-1946

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