The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a Federal Register notice on April 24, 2018, announcing the availability of a draft research plan entitled Continuing to Protect the Nanotechnology Workforce: NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Plan for 2018-2025 for public comment. The draft Nanotechnology Research Plan presents the Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) strategic plan for fiscal years (FY) 2018-2025, highlighting how the critical research and guidance efforts of NIOSH align with and support the comprehensive Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Research Strategy needs of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). For the period FY2018-2025, NIOSH states that it will continue to fill information and knowledge gaps that address the five NIOSH NTRC strategic goals first defined in the 2013 strategic plan. The proposed research focuses on specific research needs to fill the knowledge gaps and the NNI EHS priority research needs:

  • Strategic Goal 1: Increase understanding of new hazards and related health risks to nanomaterial workers:
    • Intermediate Goal 1.1: Authoritative groups will use NIOSH research to create standards and develop interventions to protect workers from exposures to new, novel engineered nanomaterials.
  • Strategic Goal 2: Expand understanding of the initial hazard findings of engineered nanomaterials:
    • Intermediate Goal 2.1: Authoritative groups will issue guidance based on NIOSH research to prevent pulmonary toxicity from carbon nanotubes and nanofibers, metal, and metal oxides;
    • Intermediate Goal 2.2: Medical professionals and researchers will use NIOSH information on biomarkers to conduct screening tests to evaluate worker response to inhalation of engineered nanomaterials;
    • Intermediate Goal 2.3: Manufacturers will issue recommendations to protect the health and safety of workers along the product lifecycle of engineered nanomaterials;
    • Intermediate Goal 2.4: Health and safety professionals will use standardized measurement methods for evaluating workplace exposure to engineered nanomaterials;
    • Intermediate Goal 2.5: Manufacturers will provide information on the potential fire and explosion safety hazards of engineered nanomaterials on safety data sheets (SDS) and product labels; and
    • Intermediate Goal 2.6: Nanomaterial researchers will use informatics to process and communicate information.
  • Strategic Goal 3: Support the creation of guidance materials to inform nanomaterial workers, employers, health professionals, regulatory agencies, and decision makers about hazards, risks, and risk management approaches:
    • Intermediate Goal 3.1: Authoritative groups will use NIOSH-recommended categorical and specific exposure limits;
    • Intermediate Goal 3.2: Employers will adopt NIOSH recommendations for engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) for use with engineered nanomaterials and additive manufacturing processes;
    • Intermediate Goal 3.3: Employers will incorporate Prevention through Design (PtD) into engineered nanomaterial health and safety programs; and
    • Intermediate Goal 3.4: International groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will include NIOSH research in the collection, management, and dissemination of relevant information to protect engineered nanomaterial workers.
  • Strategic Goal 4: Support epidemiologic studies for nanomaterial workers, including medical, cross-sectional, prospective cohort, and exposure studies:
    • Intermediate Goal 4.1: Employers, unions, and workers handling engineered nanomaterials will participate in epidemiologic research and medical surveillance.
  • Strategic Goal 5: Assess and promote national adherence with risk management guidance:
    • Intermediate Goal 5.1: Nanomaterial industry will incorporate good risk management guidance for engineered nanomaterials.

NIOSH states that it is seeking stakeholder input on the draft Nanotechnology Research Plan to ensure that the program is meeting the needs of the stakeholders, and to identify ways in which it can be improved to increase its impact on the safety and health of nanomaterial workers across the U.S. Comments are due June 25, 2018.