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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

ANSES proposes an innovative approach for the prevention of occupational risks from nanomaterials

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News of 11/04/2011

12 April 2011

The properties of manufactured nanomaterials are paving the way for a wide variety of promising technological developments. However, when assessing the risks associated with these substances, many uncertainties arise that can only be resolved once advances in scientific understanding of their properties are made. ANSES has actively mobilised its resources to address these issues, publishing an expert report on a risk control banding tool developed specifically for nanomaterials.

Discussions began in 2005 within working groups of national and international standardisation agencies (the French Standards Institute [AFNOR] and the International Organization for Standardization [ISO]) about nanotechnologies and especially their safety. In 2008, France specifically proposed an international draft standard for developing a method to control risks based on the particular physico-chemical and toxicological properties of nanomaterials. France was then given three years to complete this project.

The Ministry of Health, together with the Ministries of the Environment and of Labour, requested that the Agency report the findings of a collective expert appraisal, which AFNOR could use when submitting its document to the ISO for the development of common international standards. The Agency experts proposed the “Control Banding” method.
Control banding is a tool combining risk assessment and management, originally developed in the pharmaceutical industry. This tool is specifically proposed for guiding risk management in a context of uncertainty concerning the input data required for risk assessment (uncertainty about both the hazards of nanomaterials and exposure levels). It takes into account existing information and the available technical and scientific data, and also relies on a number of assumptions.

The method ANSES proposes is an alternative and iterative solution. New products are allocated to “bands”, which are defined according to the hazard level of known and/or similar products, while taking into account the assessment of exposure at the work station. The process combines a qualitative risk assessment with a risk control band, proposing minimum progressive individual or collective prevention measures to be implemented, depending on the estimated risk level. The tool thus allows risk managers to apply a graduated response by taking into account both the potential hazards represented by the nanomaterials concerned and the estimated levels of exposure.

Control Banding can potentially be used in any work environment in which nanomaterials are manufactured or used (industrial workshops, research laboratories, pilot plants, etc). This approach is especially adapted to small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) and industries (SMIs), which do not necessarily have at their disposal the metrological characterisation equipment or detailed toxicological studies required for a proper risk assessment process.

This is a simple, accessible and highly operational method that should be integrated into an overall occupational health and safety management system.

Find out more

> The report "Development of a specific Control Banding Tool for Nanomaterials"
> Nanomaterials : Development of a Specific Control Banding Tool
> Current knowledge on the health effects of nanoparticles
> Manufactured nanoparticles and water