Health fears raised over construction nanotechnologies

Nanotechnology is a new and exciting area which promises many benefits in different areas including construction and the built environment. However, there are health concerns associated with using nanotechnology due to nanoparticles being present in different building materials.


Research was untaken by Loughborough university to try and provide clarity regarding the use of nanomaterials and they have since issued a guide on how to stay safe using these new technologies and new materials for construction companies.


Nanotechnologies provide a very scientific approach to construction as they manipulate materials atom by atom and so therefore are very precise. It is estimated that by 2025 up to half of new building materials will contain nanomaterials.


However, the downside of nanoparticles is the health risk that they pose. If they become air born they could then be inhaled without detection in a similar way to asbestos fibres.


This research was sponsored by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health in the hope of improving the industry’s understanding of potential hazards and dangers.


Dr Wendy Jones was in charge of the project at Loughborough University and she said,

“The Team found that nanomaterials are used primarily in surface coatings, concrete, window glass, insulation and steel in different ways and to different extents. In terms of risk, even problematic nanomaterials such as long, straight CNTs will not be hazardous as long as they are embedded in a solid, stable structure. Risk only arises if workers are exposed to certain nanoparticles or nanofibers in the form of dust or aerosols; this might occur during construction or demolition activities.”


Vanessa Harwood- Whitcher, IOSH’s Director of Professional Services, said

“It’s vital that industry works together in sharing information about nanomaterials used in products more effectively. Steps such as this will help increase our knowledge and make a real difference in improving occupational safety and health practice”