Nanotechnology Safety Programs - dummies

By Earl Boysen, Nancy C. Muir, Desiree Dudley, Christine Peterson

Several organizations are watchdogging nanotechnology and related safety issues. Many of these organizations are within existing government agencies, but a number of them are forming within the research community as self-regulating bodies. Following is a list of some of those programs:

  • The Nanotechnology Core Facility, created by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research, has a mission to “support nanotechnology toxicity studies, develop analytical tools to quantify nanomaterials in complex matrices, and develop procedures for characterizing namomaterials in FDA-regulated products.” You can find more about this program by going to their website and searching for nanotechnology.

  • The National Toxicology Program, formed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has engaged in a research program whose purpose is described as follows: “to address potential human health hazards associated with the manufacture and use of nanoscale materials. This initiative is driven by the intense current and anticipated future research and development focus on nanotechnology.” When you go to their website, search for nanotechnology safety initiative.

  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has created its own field research team and directed it to “assess workplace processes, materials, and control technologies associated with nanotechnology and conduct on-site assessments of potential occupational exposure to a variety of nanomaterials.”

  • The NanoHealth Enterprise Initiative was proposed by the National Institutes of Health to address critical research needs for the safe development of nanoscale materials and devices. According to the NIH website, they propose “a partnership of NIH institutes, federal agencies, and public and private partners to pursue the very best science, leverage investment for research efficiencies, and minimize the time from discovery to application of engineered nanomaterials.”

  • The Safenano Initiative was formed by the UK’s Institute of Occupational Medicine. Their stated aims include a desire to “become the UK’s premier independent site for information about Nanotechnology hazard, risk and good practice.”


  • The Safety of Nano-materials Interdisciplinary Research Centre is a collaboration between the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Napier University, Aberdeen University, Edinburgh University, and the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Their goals include increasing awareness, providing information, and creating a body of scientific evidence that will help government and industry to create policies and procedures for the safe use of nanotechnology.

  • The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development has a program to coordinate organizations in member countries for testing 14 key nanomaterials for human health and environmental safety. For more on this program, go to their web page and search for testing manufactured nanomaterials.

  • The Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology at UCLA is focusing on how engineered nanomaterials could have an effect on cellular lifeforms in watery environments (both fresh and saltwater). Their stated mission is to be able to predict which nanomaterial physiochemical properties might be dangerous. After they identify these dangers, they then might be able to advise others on how to safely engineer nanomaterials to protect our environment.


Managing the Health and Safety Concerns Associated with Engineered Nanomaterials” is a report by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that is useful for people who want to understand more about the safety and health issues that arise when nanotechnology is used in the workplace. This report includes a section on guidelines for working with engineered nanomaterials.