Exposure to nanomaterials

A key aspect of any risk assessment of hazardous substances is assessing its exposure. This is because although a chemical may pose certain health hazards, the hazards are not realised unless people are actually exposed to the chemical. This principle equally applies to nanomaterials. Therefore, it is essential to understand whether and how people may be exposed to nanomaterials in their daily lives, including at work and at home.

Nanomaterials by their nature tend to stick together to form larger objects called aggregates and agglomerates which impact on how they interact with e.g. lung tissue.

In addition, in many products currently on the market, nanomaterials are incorporated into different matrices which impact on their availabilty for the user or the environment.

But can nanomaterials be released from such matrices, and how easily do nanomaterials come ’unstuck’ from the larger aggregates and agglomerates? There is already a general framework for determining the release of nanomaterials from powders (ISO/TS 12025:2012).

Additional research is ongoing to develop new tools such as personal monitors for the measurement of nanoparticle exposure in the workplace