Dec. 1, 2006 — Altair Nanotechnologies Inc., a provider of advanced nanomaterials for use in alternate energy, life sciences and industrial applications, announced that it has completed the first phase of a research project on workplace nanomaterial exposure characterization in conjunction with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.
Altairnano embarked on a program in 2005 to develop a substantial body of data regarding its products. By creating partnerships and working with recognized industry experts, academia and public research institutes, such as NIOSH and the University of Nevada at Reno (UNR), the company says it trying to set high product stewardship standards.
Although Altairnano’s materials have particle sizes measured in nanometers, the nature of the process and the materials is such that these nanoparticles naturally cluster together into agglomerates that are measured in microns — thousands of nanometers — rendering the handling and control characteristics of the materials more like traditional “bulk” chemicals, according to the company. Altair says research investigations with NIOSH are continuing to confirm the nature and behavior of Altairnano’s materials, and to validate that traditional control methods provide good worker protection.
In early 2006, NIOSH visited Altairnano’s manufacturing facility in Reno, Nevada and monitored workplace air quality and chemical handling techniques. NIOSH conducted this technical visit as part of its research program to visit multiple facilities to gain better understanding of the possible occupational safety and health implications and applications of nanotechnology. Based on their studies NIOSH recommended a combination of a few minor procedural changes and some longer-term engineering control improvements that could be made in the factory. Altairnano has implemented the procedural changes, has made some initial engineering control changes, and is planning on more extensive controls in part of its process.
Altairnano says is complementing the partnership with NIOSH by conducting further studies of the environment and human interaction with nanomaterials in conjunction with other recognized experts. This includes a recently announced DOE funded project to investigate the interaction of Altairnano’s nanomaterials with various non-aqueous environments.