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First U.S. Case of Illness Arising From Occupational Exposure to Nanomaterials

June 04, 2014| By Charlie Kingdollar | EPLI, General Liability, Workers' Compensation | English

Region: U.S.

Gen Re has published past articles about the potential for occupational exposure to nanomaterials to cause latent illness. Recently, a study reported the first case in North America of a worker handling nanoparticles in a U.S. laboratory setting where she developed a serious health issue:

“The study is the first reported or published case ever in North America of a worker handling nanoparticles in a U.S. manufacturing facility and developing serious health effects...A 26-year-old female chemist formulated polymers and coatings usually using silver ink particles. When she later began working with nickel nanoparticle powder weighed out and handled [in a laboratory setting she]...developed nickel sensitization when working with nanoparticle nickel powder in a setting without any special respiratory protection or control measures."1

This would seem to be a case of acute illness as the lab worker had only been working with nickel nanoparticles for one week. The worker periodically weighed out 1 to 2 grams of nickel nanoparticles without using protective measures. This is a very small amount (1 - 2 grams equals 0.035 - 0.070 ounces).

Keep in mind that laboratory workers were believed to have less exposure to powdered nanomaterials due to better controls than may be typically found in a manufacturing setting…As the Chicago song goes, “This may be only the beginning.”

On May 13, 2014 Nanotoxicology Inc. in the Magic City Morning Star described the report as “game changing.”

1“Occupational handling of nickel nanoparticles: A case report,” American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2014, Early View DOI: 10.1002/ajim.22344.


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