Workers may be exposed to nanomaterials via three main routes: inhalation, ingestion or through skin penetration. The most common potential risk arises from airborne nanoparticles being released into the workplace, inhaled by workers and potentially depositing in the respiratory tract and lungs. Nanomaterials may also be unintentionally ingested via hand-to-mouth transfer or contaminated food or water, where they may potentially cross the gut wall, enter the bloodstream and subsequently reach other parts of the body. Lastly, the risks from skin penetration are believed to be lower than that of inhalation; the skin does not allow nanomaterials to easily penetrate, although damaged skin may be less protective. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended that simple yet effective measures are taken to prevent or limit releases which may lead to potential inhalation, ingestion and skin contact through implementing risk management procedures. Several guidance documents have been published to support the safe handling and use of nanomaterials in the workplace, as detailed on our Guidance pages.
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