Nanomaterials pose challenging health & safety issues, because the toxicity and other biological effects of many nanomaterials are unknown. It is entirely possible that nanomaterials can be much more dangerous than the base materials. For example, a lump of coal or a diamond is relatively nonhazardous, but carbon nanotubes have long been suspected of asbestos-like action on the lungs, leading to lung and pleural lining cancers. [https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2008/05/20/nano/]
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recently issued four documents describing best practices for working with nanomaterials, including [items from CDC press release cited below]
• Handling and weighing of nanomaterials when scooping, pouring, and dumping;
• Harvesting nanomaterials and cleaning out reactors after materials are produced;
• Processing of nanomaterials after production;
• Working with nanomaterials of different forms, including dry powders or liquids.
The last item, working with nanomaterials, comes in a poster format suitable for hanging in the lab; the others are guidance documents.
It is strongly advised that researchers and principal investigators working with nanomaterials familiarize themselves with these documents, since they represent known best health & safety practice for their work.
The documents may be found on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-03-12-18.html
When a hazard involves a lot of energy or aggressive chemicals, your face may be at risk as well as your eyes. Also, Z87.1 or Z81+ rated eye protection may not be adequate to protect your eyes, so additional protection might be prudent. If you could injure your face in an accident, use a face shield to protect your face – learn more in High energy facial protection.
Chemical hazards require eye protection specifically designed for chemical hazards. Many chemicals can cause serious damage or irritation when they get into your eyes. These include, but are not limited to, acids, caustics and solvents. When working with chemical eye hazards, wear chemical splash goggles to protect your eyes – learn more in Chemical Hazard Eye Protection.
In the lab, we often collaborate with others in the lab or with outside researchers. It is essential that lab protocols be communicated consistently and in language everyone understands. Learn about a close call that occurred when a JHU researcher misunderstood an outside collaborator’s protocol in CCall miscommunication MD.
During a lab move, a chemical container was moved to the wrong lab, where it remained for years. While the container read “Ethyl Alcohol” on the side, it actually contained chemical waste. Several years later, a student filled spray bottles with the contents of the container, and the lab used them for about a week to sanitize biological safety cabinets, equipment, hands, etc. Several researchers were exposed to the contents. Fortunately, analysis showed that the contents were water and a common solvent, and exposures were minimal.
Find out Lessons Learned and other information about this incident at Incident chemical exposure Croft Oct2014.
Chemical fume hoods help prevent exposure to volatile hazardous chemicals in the lab. The hood works best, though, when it is empty. Everything in the hood disturbs the airflow, so keep extra equipment, chemicals, and other materials to a minimum.
Learn more about using fume hoods for storage in Fume hoods are not storage cabinets.