NEW GUIDELINES PUBLISHED BY WHO: Protecting Workers from Potential Risks of Manufactured Nanomaterials

The National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), a WHO Collaborating Centre, has participated in the development of the WHO guidelines with the aim to protect workers from the potential risks of Manufactured Nanomaterials (MNMs). The focus of these guidelines is on low and middle income (LMI) countries where the recommendations are intended to help policy-makers and professionals in the field of occupational health and safety in making decisions about protection against potential risks of MNMs. These guidelines are also intended to support workers and employers. However, it is also indicated that these guidelines are not intended as a handbook or manual for safe handling of MNMs in the workplace because this requires addressing more general occupational hygiene issues beyond the scope of these guidelines.
The process of the development of these guidelines has involved the identification by the World Health Assembly the assessment of health impacts of new technologies, work processes and products as one of the activities under the Global Plan of Action on Workers Health, adopted in 2007, and the WHO Global Network of Collaborating Centres in Occupational Health has selected (MNM) as a key focus of their activity. Subsequently, the approval for the establishment of the WHO steering group and a Guideline Development Group (GDG) was obtained by the WHO Interventions for Healthy Environments (IHE) Unit of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health in 2010.  In 2010-2011, the WHOWHO Steering Group made several public calls for experts to fill GDG and external review group membership and to identify volunteers for systematic reviews. Professor Mary Gulumian of the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), a WHO collaborating centre in South Africa, has served in the GDG, the tasks of which involved the identification of key questions through several rounds of the Delphi process.
A first face to face meeting of the GDG was held in Johannesburg South Africa, on 30 September and 1 October 2013. At the meeting, the GDG experts finalized the key questions to be addressed by the Guidelines, found authors for systematic reviews of the evidence and agreed on a plan and timeline for completing the work. Based on decisions made by the GDG, the systematic reviews of the evidence were then commissioned, and drafts were discussed at evidence review meetings held in Paris, France, on 9 and 10 February 2015; Brussels, Belgium on 4 and 5 September 2015; Dortmund, Germany on 18 and 19 April 2016.

The WHO Guideline document has now been published where the document can be accessed here:

Written by professor Mary Gulumian - Head: Toxicology and Bichemistry Section, NIOH