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Small, smaller, smallest: comprehensive information on the topic of nanotechnology

The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) is engaged both nationally and internationally in ensuring safety and health during handling of nanoparticles in workplaces. This relates primarily to materials whose particles measure less than 100 nanometres.

Nanotechnology uses nanoscale structures in products, applications and analytical techniques. Nanomaterials are of particular interest from an occupational safety and health perspective. These engineered materials have nanoscale dimensions ranging from 1 to 100 nanometres. A nanometre (nm) is a millionth of a millimetre.

The growing importance of nanotechnology

Recent years have seen an increase in the economic importance of applications based on nanotechnological discoveries, which are now becoming part of workers' everyday lives. Product innovations based on nanotechnology are playing an increasingly important role in many areas of life, such as health and nutrition, work, housing, mobility and energy production.

As these are new types of materials, BAuA is participating in the development of measurement and testing methods, as well as conducting field studies and identifying the materials' morphological and toxicological properties, in order to create a reliable basis for the evaluation of potential health risks in the workplace. Important areas of ongoing research include the analysis of substances' dust-generation behaviour in conjunction with determining the morphology, surface area and size distribution of released particles. Biopersistence and cytotoxicity are other important indicators of a possible hazard.

Statutory protection against dust and fibres

The medium-term aim of this work is to consistently enshrine protection against respirable dusts and fibres within the EU's regulations on chemical safety. Furthermore, BAuA seeks to build up governance networks with a view to enabling research institutions and start-ups to recognise risks to humans and the environment as early as possible. These efforts are intended to promote the safe design and use of innovative materials. Through its activities, therefore, BAuA seeks to benefit from the opportunities and potentials of nanotechnology and to make innovative materials both useful and safe.

For further information on BAuA's activities in the field of nanotechnology and safety, please refer to the publications and links below. If you have any questions on nanotechnology, please consult BAuA's information centre.

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