UMass Lowell Researchers to Help Companies Safely Manufacture Nano Products

09/22/2010
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

Worker Safety is Goal of New Partnership Between NIOSH, Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing

LOWELL, Mass. ߝ UMass Lowell nano researchers and federal health officials today announced a new partnership that will provide companies with practical research and guidance in development of nanotechnology that is safe for workers.

The National Science Foundation predicts that the global market for nanotech-based products will exceed $1 trillion within 15 years.

Under today’s agreement, the National Science Foundation Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) ߝ a collaboration of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Northeastern University and the University of New Hampshire ߝ will partner with the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). The federal agency conducts research to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses, and to identify and address potential occupational health and safety concerns related to the nanotechnology industry.

“As a nation, we can only harness the promise of nanotechnology to fuel the economy with life-changing products if we understand the health and safety implications of development,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan at the “Destination Nano” Conference held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center on Sept. 22. “Our experts at UMass Lowell have worked with industry for decades to assess workplace hazards and find solutions. It was a natural progression for us to leverage that expertise to the field of nanotechnology.”

“Partnerships are vital for stimulating and supporting the health and safety research that will be integral to the growth of nanotechnology,” said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard.  “We are pleased to join with UMass Lowell and the other collaborators to advance new studies on this frontier of technology and disseminate our findings.”

Through this new partnership, UMass Lowell Prof. Michael Ellenbecker and Candace Tsai, the CHN’s manager of environmental health and safety, will join forces with Dr. Chuck Geraci, coordinator of the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center, to address safety issues so that discoveries can quickly turn into commercially available products.

NIOSH and UMass Lowell research teams will evaluate potential exposure to nanomaterials and recommend solutions at small- to medium-sized companies and research laboratories around the country. One result of these site visits is that NIOSH will publish best practices developed by Ellenbecker and Tsai.

“NIOSH has established itself as global leader in conducting research that addresses the diverse health and safety challenges presented by the rapid changes occurring in nanotechnology,” said Geraci. “Without strong partnerships in academia and the private sector, it would be very difficult to achieve our primary mission of protecting worker and human health by providing good risk management guidance to the nanomaterials industry. Our partnership with the CHN strengthens those links and our history of working with UMass Lowell offers distinct advantages.”

The agreement will foster additional opportunities NIOSH and other CHN researchers to work together.

“There is an intense demand from industry to evaluate nanomaterial exposures and develop appropriate control strategies, practices, guidelines and medical surveillance,” said Tsai, who earned a doctoral degree in cleaner production and occupational hygiene from UMass Lowell’s Work Environment Department. “Our team has conducted innovative research on nanomaterial toxicology, exposure and control that will help companies develop strategies to protect workers from the potential health effects of nanomaterials, thus paving the way for the commercialization of nano products.” 

UMass Lowell will host the 5th International Symposium on Nanotechnology, Occupational and Environmental Health on Aug. 9 through 12, 2011 in Boston. More than 600 scientists and engineers are expected to attend to learn about the latest technical advances and occupational and environmental impacts in nanotechnology research. For more, visit:

www.uml.edu/nano/NanoEHS/Conferences1/Conferences.html

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. The university offers its 13,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.