Nanotechnology Safety Policy
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the leaders in research devoted to nanotechnology. University researchers are working with and developing novel nanomaterials between 1 and 500 nanometers (nm) in size. Currently, there is limited occupational safety information on nanoparticles and nanomaterials in the university research environment. The purpose of this policy is to proactively address the safety issues in the emerging field of nanotechnology and ensure that University employees performing nanotechnology research are aware of the potential hazards and risks involved and the control measures that should be utilized to limit exposures.
Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of matter at nanometer scales to produce new materials, structures, and devices. Nanoparticles are materials that have been engineered to have a size with at least one dimension (length, width, or depth) between 1 and 100 nm and may exhibit unique physical and chemical properties not seen in larger molecules of the same composition. Nanoparticles may be suspended in a gas, suspended in a liquid or embedded in a matrix. When in these states they are commonly referred to as nanomaterials. Substantial private and public investments are flowing into the exploration and development of products that can take advantage of the unique properties of nanomaterials. Currently there are no federal regulations that specifically address the environmental, health and/or safety issues of nanotechnology. At the University, several research groups are developing novel nanomaterials for use in engineering and medical applications. University researchers must consider the potential health and environmental risks that might result during this research and development. This policy will provide guidance to UNC-Chapel Hill researchers in achieving this goal and will evolve as nanotechnology regulations increase.
Principal Investigators using or generating nanomaterials in their laboratory will:
- Designate and address the use and disposal of nanomaterials as part of the individual Laboratory Safety Plan.
- Generate standard operating procedures (SOPs) for specific work operations that involve nanomaterials.
- Ensure that laboratory personnel are aware of and trained in the hazards and uncertainties associated with nanomaterials by utilizing nanotechnology safety resources such as Chapter 18 – “Safe Use of Nanomaterials” of the UNC Laboratory Safety Manual and the Nanomaterial Risk Level (NRL) Summary Table.
Laboratory Employees using or generating nanomaterials will:
- Review Chapter 18 – “Safe Use of Nanomaterials” of the UNC Laboratory Safety Manual.
- Review and follow proper work practices, utilize proper engineering controls and wear proper personal protective equipment as defined in the Nanomaterial Risk Level (NRL) Summary Table.
- Review and follow laboratory standard operating procedures (SOPs) for specific work operations that involve nanomaterials.
The Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) will:
- Review and provide feedback on individual Laboratory Safety Plans that identify nanomaterial research.
- Provide online Nanotechnology Safety training to laboratory workers who use or generate nanomaterials in campus laboratories.
- Provide hazard assessments upon request to identify appropriate work procedures, controls and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Continuously update nanotechnology safety resources such as Chapter 18 – “Safe Use of Nanomaterials” of the UNC Laboratory Safety Manual and the Nanomaterial Risk Level (NRL) Summary Table as new findings and regulations are announced.
- Annually review and update the Nanotechnology Safety Policy as new findings and regulations are announced.