Last Revised: August 29, 2022

Revised 7/2022

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Hazard Description

Hazard Description

Although insufficient information exists to predict the heath hazard posed by the exposure to nano particles, current research indicates that exposure via inhalation and skin contact can result in these particles entering the body. Results from human and animal studies show inhaled nano particles can deposit in the respiratory tract. Animal studies also show nano particles can enter the bloodstream and translocate to other organs. Nano particles have the greatest potential to enter the body if they are in the form of individual particles, agglomerates of nano particles, and particles from nanostructured materials that become airborne or come into contact with the skin.

According to NIOSH the following workplace tasks may increase the risk of exposure to nano particles:

  • Working with nano particles in liquid media without adequate protection (e.g., gloves) will increase the risk of skin exposure.
  • Working with nano particles in liquid media during pouring or mixing operations, or where a high degree of agitation is involved, will lead to an increased likelihood of inhalation and respirable droplets being formed.
  • Generating nano particles in the gas phase in non-enclosed systems will increase the chances of aerosol release to the workplace.
  • Handling nano structured powders will lead to the possibility of aerosolization.
  • Maintenance on equipment and processes used to produce or fabricate nano particles will pose a potential exposure risk to workers performing these tasks.
  • Cleaning of dust collection systems used to capture nano particles will pose a potential for both skin and inhalation exposure.


If you or your lab has not worked with this hazard before and you are considering a procedure that requires you to do so, we recommend contacting EHRS for guidance.

All work that involves the handling or transfer of nanomaterials requires the approval of the P.I.  The P.I. must ensure that the person or team who will be working with the nanomaterials understands the hazards and has received adequate training and supervision for the procedure. 

EHRS review is required for any work with dry nanomaterials in open systems such as the weighing and transferring of free nanoparticles that are not in solution, suspension, or bound to a solid medium

For any task that requires safety controls beyond those specified in this SOP, a task-specific Hazard Control Plan (HCP) must be written.  The HCP must be sent to EHRS for review.  EHRS will upload the HCP to the “documents” section of the lab’s BioRAFT page.

Training Requirements

Training Requirements

No researcher may work independently with the hazardous material described in this SOP until the Principal Investigator (or their designee) has ensured that the researcher:

  • Has completed all required EHRS laboratory safety training programs
  • Understands the hazards of the materials and risks of the processes involved
  • Has read and understands the contents of this SOP
  • Demonstrates the ability to execute their work according to the requirements in this SOP
Facility Requirements

Facility Requirements

General Ventilation

Labs that handle nano particles must have non-recirculating ventilation systems (preferably 100% exhaust air) with ventilation rates of 6-12 air changes per hour. Lab pressurization must be negative to the hallway.

Emergency Irrigation

Emergency irrigation (safety shower, eyewash) must be accessible within a 10-second travel distance of the area where the work is performed.

Division of Work Space

Offices and general-purpose workstations may not be located inside laboratories that handle nanomaterials.

Signage and Labeling

Signage and Labeling

A legible manufacturer’s label including hazard information must be present on all commercial containers of nanoparticle chemicals.

If nanomaterials are transferred to another container for storage or to make stock solutions for later use, special labeling requirements apply.  See the “Researcher-Created Labels” section in Section IV:  Chemical Container Labeling in this CHP for a complete list of requirements.

Storage and Transport

Storage and Transport

Proper storage and transport of nanomaterials must be determined by assessing all of the hazards and physical properties of the chemical. 

See Section VI:  Chemical Storage and Transportation in this CHP for a complete list of requirements.

Hazard Controls

Hazard Controls

While the health risks from exposure to nano particles are not known, the work practice and engineering control procedures to prevent exposure are well understood. Standard laboratory practices regarding the use of hazardous chemicals and gases must be followed. The following engineering, work practice and personal protective equipment controls are required when handling nano particles to reduce potential exposure and ensure safe conditions.

Engineering Controls

Chemical Fume Hood

Activities that are likely to release nano particles (such as the opening and emptying of reactors, borosilicate tubes, weighing of dry nano particles) shall not be performed on the open bench. These activities shall be performed in a fume hood (or other vented enclosure), biological safety cabinet, glove box or a vented filtered enclosure.

Furnace Exhaust

Exhaust from all furnaces used to produce nano particles must be trapped and connected to a local exhaust source.

Vacuum Protection

Mechanical vacuum pumps must be protected using cold traps and, where appropriate, must include a filter to prevent particulate release.  The pump exhaust must be vented into an approved exhaust duct or chemical fume hood.

Glove Box

Certain nanoparticles must be handled in a glove box rather than a fume hood. The Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety (8-4453) or the Principal Investigator will determine if this is required.

If a chemical fume hood or glove box is not available, contact EHRS to determine whether the risks can be adequately controlled using alternative controls.

Work Practices

A list of recommended work practices for hazardous chemical handling is included in Section V: Chemical Handling in this CHP. Of particular relevance to nanomaterial use:

Considerations for purchase

  • Do not use nanomaterial if less-hazardous alternatives are possible.
  • Purchase, dispense, and use the smallest quantity of nanomaterials possible. 
  • Purchase the lowest concentration of nanomaterials that will meet your research needs.
  • Purchase nanoparticles in solution or suspension if possible, to reduce the risk of dispersing dry nanoparticles during handling.

Considerations for work space

  • Use disposable work surface covers (“bench protectors”) in areas where nanomaterials are handled to prevent contamination of work surface.  Change bench protectors daily when nanomaterials are used, and properly dispose of contaminated covers.
  • Clean bench tops using a cleaning solution after each work activity. Spills of dry nano particles must be cleaned with a HEPA vacuum. Dry sweeping must not be used. Large spills must be cleaned by EHRS. Daily vacuuming of benches and floors with a HEPA vacuum should be performed in labs that handle nano particles.

Considerations for handling

  • Do not handle nanomaterials when working alone.
  • Immediately close all containers of nanomaterials after use.
  • Due to the risk of splashes and equipment failures, do not use a syringe and needle to perform transfers of nanomaterials in volumes of greater than 5 mL. 
  • When dispensing or transferring small volumes via syringe, luer-lock or integrated-needle syringes should be used instead of luer-slip syringe.  These devices prevent the needle from detaching from the syringe barrel during use.
  • Do not dispense nanomaterials directly onto a laboratory balance in the general lab space.  Instead, transfer the material into a sealable pre-tared container inside the fume hood; then take the sealed container to the balance.  Adjust the amount of material inside the container until the desired mass is reached.  Make all adjustments inside the fume hood.
  • The use of nanomaterials in laboratory animals may require additional work practice controls.  Contact EHRS if your protocol involves acutely toxic chemicals.
  • Restrict the handling of nanomaterials to areas well within the lab.
  • Transport dry nanomaterials in closed containers. Handle solutions containing nano particles over disposable bench covers.
  • Aerosol producing activities (such as sonication, vortexing and centrifuging) may not be conducted on the open bench. Perform these activities in a fume hood, biological safety cabinet, glove box or a vented filtered enclosure.
  • Hand washing must be performed after handling nanomaterials.

Additional work practices for reducing the risks of any lab procedure involving nanomaterials must be described in a written Hazard Control Plan.

Personal Protective Equipment

Consider the potential routes of exposure and health consequences when selecting personal protective equipment (PPE) for tasks involving nanomaterials

In addition to the minimum lab apparel and PPE requirements, other protective equipment may be necessary to reduce risks.  When additional equipment (such as tight-fitting chemical splash goggles, chemical-resistant gloves, or disposable lab coats) are required, a Hazard Control Plan must be written to document the risk assessment and controls.

  • Arm/sleeves protectors are required where high levels of exposure or splashes of solutions containing nano particles are anticipated.
  • Gloves (disposable nitrile) must be worn when handling nano materials. Because skin penetration is a concern gloves must cover the wrist and any skin on the arm exposed by the lab coat.
  • Respirators may be required for activities that cannot be controlled using ventilation. The need for and selection of respirators is the responsibility of the Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety. All respirators users will comply with the University’s Respiratory Protection Program.

Contact EHRS for assistance with risk assessments, glove compatibility, and other PPE selection.

The minimum PPE requirements for all chemical handling tasks, and information about specialty PPE can be found in the "Personal Protective Equipment" section of Section V:  Chemical Handling in this CHP.

Waste and Decontamination

Waste and Decontamination

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling any chemical and whenever you leave the lab.

Use good housekeeping practices to avoid contamination of surfaces, garments, personal belongings, and self.

Clean bench tops using a cleaning solution after each work activity. Spills of dry nano particles must be cleaned with a HEPA vacuum. Dry sweeping must not be used. Large spills must be cleaned by EHRS. Daily vacuuming of benches and floors with a HEPA vacuum should be performed in labs that handle nano particles.

Decontaminate all surfaces that have come in contact with nanomaterials and clean-up small spills promptly.  See the chemical Safety Data Sheet or contact EHRS for assistance with determining an appropriate decontamination method.  See “Spills” below for instruction on what to do in the event of a large or hazardous spill of a nanomaterial.

For complete hazardous waste guidelines, see the waste section of the EHRS website: Laboratory Chemical Waste Management Guidelines



Emergency Contacts

General emergency response information can be found at Emergency Info


General procedures for chemicals spill response can be found in Section X: Chemical Spills in this CHP.

Do not hesitate to call EHRS for assistance with spill cleanup for nanomaterials.

24 hours: 215-898-4453

Contact Penn Police (511) only if the spill involves a fire, imminent risk of fire, an injury requiring an ambulance, or if there is a hazard that may affect others in the building.

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