IOM delivers comprehensive review of exposure to Engineered Nanomaterials

27.06.2018

Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are in many everyday products. Because of their size, they have interesting properties, and can be found in electrical appliances, medicines, cleaning products, cosmetics, paints and building materials, textiles and pollution control applications.

Considering the everyday usage of ENMs, the information about pathway exposure risks to them other than inhalation is, in fact, limited, leaving workers across the world at increased risk for potential adverse health effects.

IOM funded a systematic literature review to assess the relevance of the different routes and forms of exposure that concern the protection of workers during the manufacture, handling, or end-use of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). The unique review includes explicit assessments of the quality of the available data intending to support the WHO in its effort to provide recommendations for policy makers and health and safety professionals on how to best protect workers from the potential risks of engineered nanomaterials.

One hundred and seven studies were identified during the review process, reporting 424 individual exposure assessments.

The results suggest that for workers in the manufacture, handling or end-use of ENMs all three routes of exposure (i.e. inhalation, dermal and ingestion) are of relevance.

In general, the route and the form of exposure appear to depend mainly on the nano-activity (i.e. process and operational conditions) involved, rather than just the type of the ENM, which is in line with observations for other substances at work.

Whenever inhalation exposure occurs, there is an increased likelihood for dermal/ingestion exposure to occur. This is mainly due to surface deposition and transfer resulting from ENMs release to the workplace environment.

These results can be used to provide first indications of the likelihood of exposure and guidance for exposure controls in workplaces.

The review was carried out by Ioannis Basinas, Araceli Sánchez Jiménez, Karen S Galea, Martie van Tongeren and Fintan Hurley. 

Click to read more in Annals of Work Exposures and Health.

About the Author
Dr Karen Galea Head of Workplace Exposure Science

Karen is Head of Workplace Exposure Science in our Research Division. She is actively involved in a wide variety of research projects, mainly focused on exposure assessment relating to health risks. Her workplace based research has included inhalation, dermal and biomonitoring exposure assessment in a range of industrial sectors, exposure model validation and evaluation, historical hygiene assessment etc. Her research has also extended beyond the working environment e.g. pesticide biomonitoring in residents living near agricultural land, consumer exposure to diesel and lubricating oils, use of low cost sensors by citizens and use of respiratory protection against volcanic ash.

Contact Details:

  • Section Head - Workplace Exposure Science
  • Office: +44 (0) 131 449 8034
  • Mobile: +44 (0) 7818 426 612
  • Email: karen.galea@iom-world.org

Qualifications:

  • PhD Environmental Medicine
  • MSc Occupational Hygiene
  • BSc (Hons) Environmental Health (First Class)

Committee and Society Memberships:

  • Member of the British Occupational Hygiene Society
  • Committee member of the UK & Ireland Exposure Science meetings
  • Member of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (MIEnvSc)
  • Member of the Institute of Science and Technology (MIScT)
  • Member of the ISO/TC 146/SC 2/WG 8 "Assessment of contamination of skin and surfaces from airborne chemicals" committees
  • Member of the British Standards Institute ‘EH/002/02 Work place atmospheres’ committee

Research Interests:

Highlighted current research interests include:

  • HBM4EU - https://www.hbm4eu.eu/, in particular the European human biological monitoring study on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium.
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