Current status of worker protection regulations for nanotechnology use
Worker protection remains a key issue for any emerging technology, and nanomaterials as such, many of the regulatory challenges posed by nanomaterials in this area are no different to those of other emerging technologies. However, of particular importance to regulation of nanotechnologies is the potential for unquantified long term worker exposures to nanomaterials whose physico-chemical properties and potential health risks are not yet fully understood. The need for effective regulation to protect workers has recently been further accentuated following comparison of carbon nanotubes to fibrous materials such as asbestos (Poland et al., 2008
). Although to date there are no documented cases of death or serious ill health attributed to nanotechnologies or the use of manufactured nanomaterials, nanotechnologies have been highlighted as one of the top four emerging risks challenges facing insurers at the current time, and various stakeholder groups have issued calls for adequate risk governance and regulation in the area.
Some regulatory bodies specific to worker protection are undertaking activities to further investigate the potential new risks to workers posed by nanotechnologies, and in some cases steps are being taken to ensure that nanomaterials are at least covered under existing regulations. These include:
- European Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work (ACSH)
- European Agency for Safety & Health at Work (EU-OSHA)
- U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), Japan
A summary of the outputs from these bodies is provided in the section below, together with links to relevant further information.