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IOSH launches nanotechnology guidelines

09 January 2018

IOSH have sponsored a team from Loughborough University to produce nanotechnology guidance.

A research team at Loughborough University, sponsored by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), has produced guidance on using nano-technology in building materials. 

Estimates suggest that by 2025 up to half of new building materials might contain nano-materials. However, we actually know surprisingly little about where and how these "ingredients" are used. 

The researchers set out to discover what is known about the prevalence of nano-materials in construction, to test possible risks in the lab, and to give guidance for manufacturers of nano-materials or products containing them as well as people working in construction or demolition.

The project was led by Professor Alistair Gibb and Dr Wendy Jones, both from Loughborough University. Dr Jones said:

“With this research we aimed to get a clearer picture of the current status of nano-materials used in the construction industry and to bring this information to relevant audiences in a practical way. We also hoped to debunk some controversy and misunderstanding about nano-materials and their risks.

“We researched what information is known already and sought to pull together materials that would otherwise be inaccessible. We describe the nanofilms used for some window glass, silica aerogels used in insulation, nanosilicas used in concrete and coatings, which are the most numerous and readily available nanoscale products in construction.

“The team found that nano-materials are used primarily in surface coatings, concrete, window glass, insulation and steel in different ways and to differing extents. Some nano-materials, such as certain types of carbon nanotube (CNT), are reported as potentially harmful, but these do not currently seem to be in common usage in the UK.

“In terms of risk, even problematic nano-materials such as long, straight CNTs will not be hazardous as long as they are embedded in a solid, stable structure. Risk only arises if workers are exposed to certain nano-particles or nano-fibres in the form of dusts or aerosols; this might occur during construction or demolition activities.”