Nanotechnology Construction Workplace exposures Construction

CPWR publishes toolbox talks on nanomaterials in construction

Photo: Center for Construction Research and Training

Silver Spring, MD — The Center for Construction Research and Training, also known as CPWR, has released a series of toolbox talks on nanomaterials.

Nanomaterials are “many times thinner than a human hair,” CPWR states in all three toolbox talks, which describe what nano-enabled construction materials are, how to identify them and how to prevent exposure, respectively. The center adds that nanomaterials can be found in items such as paints and coatings, cement, insulation, and roofing materials.

“When workers cut, grind, sand or spray nano-enabled materials, dust or mist containing the engineered nanomaterials gets into the air that workers breathe,” CPWR states.

Nanomaterials containing titanium dioxide or carbon nanotubes may cause cancer, according to NIOSH, which has established recommended exposure limits. OSHA currently has no specific regulations regarding nanomaterials, but its respiratory protection (1910.134) or hazard communication (1910.1200) standards may apply, CPWR notes. Additionally, OSHA’s General Duty Clause may also be applicable.

The toolbox talk on identifying nano-enabled materials includes a link to an online inventory ( of more than 600 such materials.


CPWR advises workers to ask their employers about whether products they handle contain nanomaterials and to check labels or Safety Data Sheets.

To help prevent exposure, using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filter or a water attachment on power tools will help keep dust from becoming airborne. If either method is insufficient or unavailable, the center advises using respirators with N95 or P100 filters.

Additionally, use of goggles or faceshields can help prevent dust from getting into workers’ eyes. CPWR also recommends wearing hearing protection.

The toolbox talks are available in English and Spanish.

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