Best Practice Guidelines for Safely Working with Nanomaterials

| June 4, 2013

NSF Grant Number: EEC-0425826
PI(s): M. Ellenbecker
Student Researcher: C. Tsai
Institution: University of Massachusetts Lowell

Objective: The Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) is an NSF-funded Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center collocated at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Northeastern University, and the University of New Hampshire. A unique aspect of CHN is its dedication to performing all of its activities in a manner that protects the environmental and occupational environment. Our Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety team at UMass Lowell is undertaking research on the measurement and control of nanoparticle exposures and evaluating exposures in CHN laboratories. A best practices guideline document has been written to provide best safety and health practices to students, staff and faculty of the CHN who work with nanoparticles. The guiding principle behind the guidelines is precaution. Under “Basic Premises” the Guidelines state: “At this time, little is known about the potential toxicity of nanoparticles, especially engineered nanoparticles. Given this uncertainty, CHN students, staff and faculty must take a precautionary approach to working with nanoparticles… Applied to CHN, this means that we need to take reasonable steps to reduce our exposure to nanoparticles to the lowest possible level until the science tells us higher exposures will not pose undue risk.”

Broader Impact: The following topics are discussed in some detail in the guidelines: Basic Premises; Routine R&D Laboratory Operations; Control Preferences; Ventilation Design Principles; Laboratory Fume Hoods; Administrative Controls; Management of Nanomaterials; Management of Nanomaterial Spills. The guidelines recommended by CHN are compared to the actual practices being followed by the respondents to a recent International Council on Nanotechnology survey. The guidelines may spur development of consensus best practices and spawn development of standard test protocols for evaluating laboratory practices that all researchers can follow in a consistent fashion.

Significant Results: Currently underway is a project on the development of standard test protocols for evaluating the performance of laboratory fume hoods when manipulating nanoparticles. Elevated breathing zone concentrations were consistently found for all experimental conditions using the conventional hood. The constant velocity hood consistently showed good control, and the performance of the bypass hood fell between the other two. Using a Fast Particle Mobility Sizer (FPMS), particle size and concentrations are measured at various locations. Typical results are shown, which plots the change in total concentration at the worker’s breathing zone (after subtracting the background concentration) during handling nanoalumina as a function of time. The concentrations climb with time for experiments using 100 g handling in the conventional and bypass hoods, while the concentrations during handling 15 g nanoalumina particles remained close to background concentrations throughout the experiments.