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Completed Research

Nanomaterials in Construction: Tracking Product Diffusion and Measuring Exposures

Bruce Lippy


Research Team

Len Burrelli, Daniel Marsick, Alan Segrave, Gavin West

Nano-enabled construction products are being increasingly used in the U.S., but manufacturers are under no obligation to identify that their products contain nanoparticles in warnings or safety data sheets. Consequently, construction contractors and workers have no mechanism for understanding potential exposures.  The small size (between 1 and 100 nanometers along one dimension) and active surface chemistry that are prized by industry and that have fueled the impressive growth of the nanotechnology market may carry risks for workers, but there are almost no studies on actual exposures from normal construction tasks with nano-enabled products. This proposed emerging technology research will address both deficiencies by focusing on nanotechnology and its impact on construction.

This effort will identify nano-enabled products that are being installed or used by U.S. construction workers and rate the exposure potential of the products using focus groups of affected trades persons. The Center has created a dedicated website as part of its electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health that contains information on over 400 construction products that are probably nano-enabled. Those that are identified as posing the greatest risks will be selected for breathing zone measurements of various trade workers performing tasks with standard tools. This proposal also includes an evaluation of the effectiveness of control technologies to reduce exposures and an identification of the most promising existing local exhaust systems and wet methods technologies in the Center’s Construction Solutions database and elsewhere. Industrial hygiene measurements with personal sampling pumps, area samplers and real-time particle counters will be made inside a controlled test chamber to reduce extraneous sources of particles. The  Center will disseminate the findings to broad audiences through the varied and extensive communication tools that the Center maintains, including the Electronic Library for Construction Safety and Health (eLCOSH), which receives 40,000 visits per month, Hazard Alerts and CPWR UPDATES. The communications tools that will be generated to diffuse the findings includes toolbox talks, Construction Solutions for controlling exposures, CPWR Hazard Alerts and UPDATES, two technical papers, two roundtables  and five presentations at professional conferences, and two webinars. The Center has already shared the product inventory with NIOSH’s Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) and will continue to collaborate closely with the NTRC.


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