The study and understanding of natural phenomena have characterised the history of man from its appearance on Earth, and indeed thanks to the advancements of research over the centuries, quality of life has progressively improved. Technological advancement and scientific development have allowed scientists and researchers from all over the world to start studying the infinitely small and to visualise and work at nanometric scale.
In this research field, which has become increasingly important over the years for both its industrial and medical applications, one of the fundamental elements is the analysis of the interactions between nanomaterials - which have always been present in nature and can now be studied thanks to extremely precise scientific instruments, able to explore dimensions unimaginable until only a few years ago - and the human body. The NanoLab project was born to study these relatively recent interactions - in line with what happens in other European and non-European countries - and to assess workers’ health in a scientific and transparent manner under the guide of a public body (INAIL), with particular reference to research staff (scientists, researchers, R&D managers, technicians) working in laboratories where nanomaterials are studied. In order to fulfil its mission of protection of health conditions of all categories of workers, INAIL promoted and financed a series of specific projects, not only on nanotechnologies, but also on other topics such as work-related stress, biomechanical risks, etc., (see the full list at the following link), with the aim of further investigating some innovation research themes and promoting the creation of networks of excellence. NanoLab was developed thanks to the creation of a work group to which some of the most important laboratories in Italy (and in the world), which have made their expertise available to develop knowledge on the theme of the impact of nanotechnologies on health in R&D laboratories, and of a correct management of their interactions with man.
The NanoLab project has the objective of monitoring and improving working condition standards in the laboratories in which nanotechnologies are studied.
In particular, the NanoLab Project has taken as points of reference the NEST laboratories at the Scuola Normale Superiore, in which were performed all detections and measurements that will then be analysed.
The project has the objective of developing clear and effective communication tools for the prevention and management of safety in the use of nanomaterials in Research and Development activities, based on a precautionary approach to ensure a safe and effective development of nanomaterials and of their applications.
In particular, it is tailored to those who work in laboratories where nanomaterials are studied, with particular reference to nanowires, graphenes or nanoparticles. This category of workers includes also those who in some way have to deal with the management of machinery and equipment, with maintenance, safety of installations, cleaning.
All those who deal with the management or the use of a nanotechnology laboratory can obtain useful and up-to-date guidance from this project regarding the behaviour standards to adhere to.
The methodology used is based on the most recent control banding techniques for the evaluation of the impact of nanomaterials on the work in reference research laboratories.
The three materials under study are:
These three materials have been used because they represent three different dimensions (0D, 1D and 2D) and because they are among the most representative nanomaterials used in research laboratories.
The final result of the project will be made available publicly on the INAIL website.
The project, which will last for a year, will develop along the following main directions: