Health and safety experts face an ongoing challenge in evaluating the risks linked to the increasing utilization of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) in research. Given the constantly changing characteristics of these materials, there is a scarcity of information regarding their toxicology, compounded by the continuous development of new materials. Initial scientific studies indicate potential harmful impacts of ENM on human health, underscoring the importance of implementing effective measures to mitigate these risks. In order to effectively evaluate risks, it is essential to gather accurate and comprehensive information from multiple sources, including safety data sheets and toxicological data. However, ENM often exhibit distinctive properties that set them apart from their bulk counterparts, offering new possibilities for innovative applications as well as potential hazards. Therefore, it is crucial to take into account the specific characteristics of ENM when assessing risks and implementing suitable safety precautions.
The limited understanding of ENM means that it may take several years to accurately identify the specific types and quantities that present risks to human health and the environment. In the absence of comprehensive information, it is advisable to adopt a precautionary approach, which involves implementing control banding methods. Nevertheless, due to uncertainties related to exposure and the potential effects, taking a cautious stance often leads to conservative estimations of risk levels. Consequently, stringent protective measures are necessary to address the perceived high level of risk. Research and teaching institutions are dynamic environments with multiple laboratories, inexperienced students, and high staff turnover. To address these challenges, we present a practical "Nano safety" management system. Based on control banding and 15 years of experience, it has been successfully implemented in over 120 ENM research labs. The system includes risk assessment, preventive measures, and protection implementation. We will discuss its achievements and challenges in this evolving environment.