It’s hard to believe that fall has officially arrived and it’s time for my 4th quarter column for 2009. As I mentioned in my 3rd column, things have been relatively quiet and subdued in protective clothing standardization, technical committee and regulatory activities. The one exception is that NIOSH ( NPPTL) is offering another PPE conference November 17- 19th in Fort Lauderdale, FL. They will be soliciting input for new research directions in protective clothing and equipment as well as reviewing current research activities and exhibiting new technologies from PPE vendors. Check the NIOSH’s web site (NIOSH.gov.) for registration details.
Given the stagnant economy and tight budgets, research and new initiatives in protective clothing testing and evaluation have been given less priority and consideration, so I have decided to devote my column to protective clothing needs for the future. Obviously, new technology and materials used for making protective clothing will drive the direction for research in testing, preventing and protecting individuals from exposure to new manufactured products such as “engineered” nano particles used in a number of new consumer products. First there is the issue of toxicity of these particles that are much smaller in size(< 100 nm in diameter) than existing substances currently being used. Nano particles have the ability to penetrate, migrate and permeate through body tissue and therefore are distributed throughout the body readily and can be more toxic. This also means that they potentially can permeate through the skin, either in solution or as powders. Given that skin permeation is one of the major routes of exposure how are we currently protecting those individuals actually producing nano materials in manufacturing facilities? I have yet to see any published data on the permeation of carbon nano tubes through protective clothing materials, nor have I seen any protective clothing ecommendations on MSDS’s. Since these particles are more toxic, should we not be providing protective clothing recommendations to prevent exposure. Both OSHA and NIOSH have established exposure guidelines to nano particles, but we still lack adequate inexpensive equipment to measure airborne or aqueous concentrations in solution. Given the lack of adequate toxicity and permeation data, what do we tell employees to wear for protection?
In summary, nano particle technology will drive protective clothing standards development, testing and regulations for the next few years and yes the permeation test cells are capable of being used to measure nano particle permeation with the proper analytical techniques and equipment. If any of you are aware of nano particle permeation studies or test data, both Rich and I would be interested in knowing about it. We will continue to share any information about the use of the test cells and help you get started to do permeation testing in your own laboratory. We also hope that as the year 2009 ends that you had a good safe prosperous year and that the new year will be even better..