Nanomaterials in Construction: Tracking Product Diffusion and Measuring Exposures (Completed 2014-2019)
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 addressed both deficiencies by focusing on nanotechnology and its impact on construction.
This effort identified nano-enabled products that are being installed or used by U.S. construction workers and rated the exposure potential of the products using focus groups of affected trades persons. CPWR 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 identified as posing the greatest risks were selected for breathing zone measurements of various trade workers performing tasks with standard tools. The project also included 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 Construction Solutions database and elsewhere. Industrial hygiene measurements with personal sampling pumps, area samplers, and real-time particle counters were made inside a controlled test chamber to reduce extraneous sources of particles. These findings were disseminated to broad audiences through the varied and extensive communication tools that CPWR maintains, including the Electronic Library for Construction Safety and Health (eLCOSH), which receives 40,000 visits per month, Hazard Alert Cards, and CPWR Update, an electronic newsletter. Other tools used to diffuse the findings include toolbox talks, Construction Solutions website for controlling exposures, two technical papers, two roundtables and five presentations at professional conferences, and two webinars.