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Issues in the Development of Epidemiologic Studies of Workers Exposed to Engineered Nanoparticles

Schulte, Paul A. PhD; Schubauer-Berigan, Mary K. PhD; Mayweather, Candis BS; Geraci, Charles L. PhD; Zumwalde, Ralph MS; McKernan, John L. ScD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: March 2009 - Volume 51 - Issue 3 - p 323-335
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181990c2c
Original Articles

Objective: Capitalizing on phenomena at the nanoscale may present great benefits to society. Nevertheless, until the hazards and risks of engineered nanoparticles are determined, the technological products and advances of nanotechnology may be impeded by the societal concerns. Although animal data provide the necessary first step in hazard and risk assessment, ultimately epidemiological studies will be required, especially studies of workers exposed to engineered nanoparticles. It may be too soon to conduct informative epidemiological studies but it is now appropriate to identify issues that will be pertinent and prepare strategies to address them.

Methods: The published scientific literature on incidental and engineered nanoparticles and air pollution were reviewed to identify issues in the conduct of epidemiological studies of workers exposed to engineered nanoparticles.

Results: Twelve important issues were identified—the most critical pertaining to particle heterogeneity, temporal factors, exposure characterization, disease endpoints, and identification of the study population.

Conclusion: Consideration of these issues provides the foundation for initiating epidemiologic research on workers exposed to engineered nanoparticles.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Dr Schulte, Dr Schubauer-Berigan, Dr Geraci, Mr Zumwalde, Dr McKernan), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Education and Information Division (PAS, CLG, RZ), Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies (MKS-B, JLM), Cincinnati, Ohio; and Rollins School of Public Health (Ms Mayweather), Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.

CME Available for this Article at

Paul A Schulte and coauthors have no financial interest related to this research.

Address correspondence to: Paul Schulte, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4676 Columbia Parkway, MS C-14, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226; E-mail:

©2009The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine