Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce new structures, materials and devices.
Nanotechnology makes use of minuscule objects—whose width can be 10,000 times narrower than a human hair—known as nanoparticles. Upwards of 600 products on store shelves today contain them, including transparent sunscreen, lipsticks, anti-aging creams and even food products.
Basic construction materials like cement, concrete and steel also now benefit from nanotechnology. Addition of nanoparticles reportedly leads to stronger, more durable, self-healing, air purifying, fire resistant, easy to clean and quick compacting concrete. Some of the nanoparticles that are used for these features are nano silica (silica fume), nanostructured metals, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and carbon nanofibers (CNFs)
Workers within nanotechnology-related industries have the potential to be exposed to uniquely engineered materials with novel sizes, shapes, and physical and chemical properties. Occupational health risks associated with manufacturing and using nanomaterials are not yet clearly understood. Minimal information is currently available on dominant exposure routes, potential exposure levels, and material toxicity of nanomaterials.