handsMediumTAKEN FROM http://ohsonline.com/

By Armand CoppotelliAug 01, 2009

Nanomaterials: The Unseen Enemies

A study by the University of Massachusetts Lowell noted latex and nitrile gloves have thinner areas (intrinsic voids) where nanoparticles tend to accumulate. By Armand CoppotelliAug 01, 2009

When the outside environmental skin hazards are visible ones, such as a mechanic’s contact with grease, it is obvious when the contaminant needs to be removed. When the environmental skin hazards are not visible to the eye–for example, working with nanomaterials–it is not obvious when the skin’s natural barrier has been compromised. A new word in the vocabularies of many safety managers and industrial hygienists, “nanomaterial” defines a particle between 1 and 100 nanometers (nm) and can be composed of many different base materials (carbon, silicon, and metals such as gold, cadmium, and selenium).1 While respiration of such nanoparticles is of great concern also, this article briefly addresses hand protection from these “sight unseen” contaminants. Choose the Right Glove Industry publications recommend PPE (gloves) when working with nanoparticles for this reason: “the ability of nanoparticles to penetrate the skin is uncertain at this point, gloves should be worn when handling particulate and solutions containing particles.”2 Standard guidelines in choosing the right glove holds true when working with nanoparticles, such as good chemical resistance against the materials being handled and proper fit. Some suggest wearing two pairs of gloves. 2 A study by the University of Massachusetts Lowell noted a lack of standardized test methods to test the efficacy of protective gloves against nanomaterials. This study also noted latex and nitrile gloves have thinner areas (intrinsic voids) where nanoparticles tend to accumulate. These thinner areas might be vulnerable to penetration by nanoparticles if used under unfavorable conditions, such as stretching (elongating) the gloves, extended wear time, or severe tear situations.3 NIOSH has identified engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) as one of 10 critical topic areas as guides to address gaps in knowledge, strategies development, and providing recommendations in regard to nanotechnology. This includes the evaluation and improvement of current PPE. Until more data are available, the use of good industrial hygiene practices, including providing both PPE and hand washing facilities, should be continued.4 Ensure Proper Hand Washing One need only look at local and world news to hear current statistics of the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak, amateur and professional sport participants undergoing treatment (often life changing, such as amputation) for MRSA, and other “invisible” enemies attacking our epidermis. Luckily, our best defense is just a wash basin away. According to Erica Odom of CDC, “Hand hygiene or hand washing is the single most important thing that you can do to help prevent the spread of infection and to stay healthy and well.”5 Most of us consider hand washing to be a routine, automatic action and never give much thought or attention to the task. Reviewing the steps ourselves, and educating employees to those steps, takes only moments and can prevent many illnesses leading to days away from the job:

1. Apply hand cleanser to hands.

2. Wet hands with tepid (moderately warm) water and work cleanser into a lather.

3. Vigorously rub together all surfaces of lathered hands, including fingers, nails, and around cuticles, for at least 15 seconds. This is the most important step: The friction, in combination with the cleanser’s surfactant, will help to remove dirt and microorganisms.

4. Rinse hands thoroughly under running water to remove all lather.

5. Dry hands thoroughly with a paper towel. Leaving soap residue on the skin and incomplete drying contribute to dermatitis. Turn faucet off with towel. How long is 15 seconds? As taught to young children, it’s the time it takes to sing the “ABC Song” or “Happy Birthday.” Teens are taught to judge the time by the chorus of their favorite song, repeating it twice. Often, the use of tepid–not hot–water is questioned. Hot water can be too uncomfortable to the skin to facilitate proper washing. Warm water is better tolerated by the skin and increases the time spent in the cleansing experience.


August 20, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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