Occupational Exposure To Nanoparticles

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Occupational Exposure to Nanoparticles

Occupational Exposure to Nanoparticles


Although mankind stands to obtain great benefit from nanotechnology, it is important to consider the potential health impacts of nanomaterials (NMs). This consideration has launched the field of nanotoxicology, which is charged with assessing toxicological potential as well as promoting safe design and use of NMs. Although no human ailments have been ascribed to NMs thus far, early experimental studies indicate that NMs could initiate adverse biological responses that can lead to toxicological outcomes. One of the principal mechanisms is the generation of reactive oxygen species and oxidant injury. Because oxidant injury is also a major mechanism by which ambient ultrafine particles can induce adverse health effects, it is useful to consider the lessons learned from studying ambient particles. This review discusses the toxicological potential of NMs by comparing the possible injury mechanisms and adverse health effects of engineered and ambient ultrafine particles.

Literature Review

The sale of products utilizing nanotechnology could top an estimated $1 trillion per year by 2015. Nanotechnology is moving at a rapid global pace, often with a short time window between the actual date of discovery and the point at which new inventions are commercialized (Li N, Xia T, Nel AE. 2008). According to the Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory, more than 600 self-claimed nanotechnology products are currently being produced by 322 companies in 20 countries. Nanomaterials (NMs) with novel physicochemical properties are often being used to improve the functionality of new commercial products (Nel A, Xia T, Madler L, Li N. 2006). Examples of such products are sunscreens, paints, cosmetics, clothing, building materials, electronics, and personal care products. Although these products benefit the users and the economy, increased exposure of nanotechnology researchers, workers, and consumers to potentially hazardous materials could cause adverse health effects. Workers involved in manufacturing, shipping, or handling of nanoparticles (NPs) are probably already being exposed to some of the materials that are produced in bulk or powder form (Parke DV, Parke AL. 1996).

In addition to exposing workers through occupational encounters, the use of NM for drug therapy, imaging, and gene delivery is also increasing personal exposure. Although these exposures may raise some concern, little is known about the toxic potential of these NMs on human health. Although much still needs to be learned about the toxicity of engineered NMs, we are fortunate to start with a clean slate such that there are no documented incidences of a human or occupational disease due to an engineered NP exposure (Leroueil PR, Berry SA, Duthie K, Han G, Rotello VM, et al. 2008).

Although clinical toxicity by engineered NM has not been documented thus far, the literature on particles and fibers, including ultrafine particles (UFPs), diesel exhaust particles (DEPs), quartz, and asbestos, indicates a history of adverse health effects. It is possible therefore that engineered NPs and fibers may pose similar hazards (Jeng HA, Swanson J. 2006): The novel physicochemical properties of these engineered materials may introduce new mechanisms of injury and toxicological ...
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