Australia studies reveal potential health, safety risks of nanotech

Canberra, Australia – Nanomaterial dust may pose worker safety and health risks similar to those from non-nanomaterial dust, according to two new Australian reports.

Released March 18 by Safe Work Australia, an independent government agency that develops policies to improve workplace safety and health, the reports focus on how nanomaterials lead to health risks caused by machine processing and the dangers of combustible dust explosions.

The first report, from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, determined that nano-objects are released from nano-laced composites during machine processes such as sawing in similar quantities as emissions released during machining of composites without nanomaterials. This led researchers to believe that unless the particles are reinforced with “high toxicity” nano-objects, the potential health risks will be similar to non-nanomaterials.

The second study, conducted by Toxikos Pty Ltd., found that dust clouds laced with nanomaterials could lead to explosions if the cloud contains a high enough concentration of nanomaterials and is ignited.

Because of the low but still present risk of these hazards found in the reports, Safe Work Australia is developing guidance materials on working with combustible dust hazards that include nanomaterials, the organization said in a press release.

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