The World Health Organization (WHO) has published an international guideline to protect workers from potential occupational health risks from manufactured nanomaterials .
The guideline, which is addressed to governments and experts in the more than 180 member states of the WHO, contains recommendations for the assessment of risks and suitable occupational safety measures when handling manufactured nanomaterials. Expert guidance from the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) was included in the guideline.
With the release of the guideline “WHO guidelines on protecting workers from potential risks of manufactured nanomaterials ” ( WHO guidelines to protect workers from potential hazards from nanomaterials) entered the World Health Organization new ground in international rule-making for hazardous substances in the workplace. Based on systematic evaluations of the scientific literature, the guideline was modeled on evidence-based medicine.
With the help of nanotechnology, the properties of chemical materials can be very effectively influenced and shaped today. This opens up great innovation potential, for example for light and energy-efficient products. However, nanomaterials are also a challenge for occupational safety because in addition to the chemical composition, the specific material design can be associated with health hazards. In the workplace, inhaled dusts and fibers can lead to long-term chronic respiratory diseases if they accumulate in the lungs due to their poor solubility. Special attention must be paid to some fiber materials whose dust contains rigid fibers that are similar to asbestos.
As an expert, Dr. Rolf Packroff, scientific director of the department “Hazardous Substances and Biological Agents” of the BAuA , participated in the guideline. Important findings from the research work of the BAuA and conclusions from the technical rule setting in the Committee for Hazardous Substances (AGS) could be incorporated. The main points include the classification of nanomaterials into three hazard-related groups and a differentiation between rigid and non-rigid fiber dusts. These distinctions allow the necessary health and safety measures to be differentiated. In addition, they should enable scientifically sound risk communication and counteract the general stigmatization of nanomaterials.
The guideline is available in English in PDF format on the WHO website.