Nanomaterials include any materials or particles that have an external dimension in the nanoscale (~1 - 100 nm). Nanomaterials are both naturally occurring in the environment and intentionally produced. Intentionally produced nanomaterials are referred to as Engineered Nanomaterials (ENMs). Materials whose properties do not differ significantly between their nanoscale and larger forms are generally excluded from ENMs. The most common types of ENMs are carbon-based materials (e.g., nanotubes), metals and metal oxides (e.g., silver and zinc oxide), and quantum dots (e.g., zinc selenide).

As is the case with many new technologies, the health effects of nanomaterials have not been thoroughly investigated. Consequently, the uncertainty surrounding the toxicity of nanomaterials merits a cautious approach when working with them.

Handling Guidelines

Below are some general handling guidelines when working with nanomaterials

  • Use engineering controls like source enclosure, local exhaust ventilation, and HEPA filters when working with nanomaterials.
  • During any experiment, wear NIOSH-approved personal protective equipment and respirator.
  • Cleanup any spill immediately and properly dispose of any Nanomaterials.
  • Since there are many different kinds of nanomaterials, always perform a risk assessment of the experiment involving nanomaterials to ensure the proper engineering controls are in place to prevent exposure.