The evolution of nanotechnology from laboratory research to full-scale production has led to the need to understand the health risk to workers in that industry from the dispersion of nanoparticles escaping from various aspects of the production process. Risk is a function of both the hazard imposed by a compound or material and the expected exposure level. Therefore, research to evaluate proper exposure assessment methods specific to nanoparticles in a workplace atmosphere, as well as research on the toxicological properties of nanoparticles, has been conducted to better understand methods for protecting the health of workers in this burgeoning industry. From an assessment standpoint, researchers are evaluating both the accuracy and validity of currently available instruments and the merits of each of the three metrics – mass, surface area, and count – as indicators of exposure that provide the most relevant indication of worker health risk. Likewise, toxicologists are employing both in vitro and in vivo methods to understand the potential hazard to workers who may inhale aerosolized nanoparticles. This review provides an overview of current research efforts in nanoparticle exposure assessment and toxicology with an emphasis on how information from both fields of study combine to provide guidance to minimize the health risk posed by nanoparticulate exposure in the workplace.
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