'Serious Gaps' in EU Workers' Nano Knowledge: EU OSHA

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work reviewed current research on the topic and concluded knowledge of the risks posed by nanomaterials is still poor.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, also known as EU OSHA, completed a review of current research on nanomaterials and concluded workers' knowledge of the risks they pose is still poor.

"We are facing nanotechnology in our everyday life in many products and applications. Although health and environmental hazards have been demonstrated for some manufactured nanomaterials, they are used in food, cosmetics, textiles, paints, sporting goods, electronics, detergents, and many health and fitness products. And they are present in many workplaces, too. Currently, there are over 1,000 consumer products listed, produced by more than 500 companies in 30 countries. 300,000 to 400,000 jobs in the EU deal directly with nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials are handled in many more workplaces down the supply chain; 75% of them are small and medium-sized enterprises," the agency said in its June 20 communication about the review.

It said 54 percent of Europeans do not know what nanotechnology is, and awareness is low even in workplaces where manufactured nanomaterials are found. "For example, 75% of workers and employers in construction are not aware they work with them," it said.

While some efforts to improve risk awareness are under way, more needs to be done, preferably by policymakers, national occupational safety and health bodies, public health agencies, and other stakeholders working together, EU OSHA said.

The agency has developed an online database of companies' best practices for managing manufactured nanomaterials in eight EU Member States and industries such as textiles, construction, and medicine. The database is available here.

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