Tag Archives: Claude Ostiguy

Canadian research into nanomaterial workplace exposure in the air and on surfaces

An August 30, 2018 news item on Nanowerk announces the report,

The monitoring of air contamination by engineered nanomaterials (ENM) is a complex process with many uncertainties and limitations owing to the presence of particles of nanometric size that are not ENMs, the lack of validated instruments for breathing zone measurements and the many indicators to be considered.

In addition, some organizations, France’s Institut national de recherche et de sécurité (INRS) and Québec’s Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) among them, stress the need to also sample surfaces for ENM deposits.

In other words, to get a better picture of the risks of worker exposure, we need to fine-tune the existing methods of sampling and characterizing ENMs and develop new one. Accordingly, the main goal of this project was to develop innovative methodological approaches for detailed qualitative as well as quantitative characterization of workplace exposure to ENMs.

A PDF of the 88-page report is available in English or in French.

An August 30, 2018 (?) abstract of the IRSST report titled An Assessment of Methods of Sampling and Characterizing Engineered Nanomaterials in the Air and on Surfaces in the Workplace (2nd edition) by Maximilien Debia, Gilles L’Espérance, Cyril Catto, Philippe Plamondon, André Dufresne, Claude Ostiguy, which originated the news item, outlines what you can expect from the report,

This research project has two complementary parts: a laboratory investigation and a fieldwork component. The laboratory investigation involved generating titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles under controlled laboratory conditions and studying different sampling and analysis devices. The fieldwork comprised a series of nine interventions adapted to different workplaces and designed to test a variety of sampling devices and analytical procedures and to measure ENM exposure levels among Québec workers.

The methods for characterizing aerosols and surface deposits that were investigated include: i) measurement by direct-reading instruments (DRI), such as condensation particle counters (CPC), optical particle counters (OPC), laser photometers, aerodynamic diameter spectrometers and electric mobility spectrometer; ii) transmission electron microscopy (TEM) or scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) with a variety of sampling devices, including the Mini Particle Sampler® (MPS); iii) measurement of elemental carbon (EC); iv) inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and (v) Raman spectroscopy.

The workplace investigations covered a variety of industries (e.g., electronics, manufacturing, printing, construction, energy, research and development) and included producers as well as users or integrators of ENMs. In the workplaces investigated, we found nanometals or metal oxides (TiO2, SiO2, zinc oxides, lithium iron phosphate, titanate, copper oxides), nanoclays, nanocellulose and carbonaceous materials, including carbon nanofibers (CNF) and carbon nanotubes (CNT)—single-walled (SWCNT) as well as multiwalled (MWCNT).

The project helped to advance our knowledge of workplace assessments of ENMs by documenting specific tasks and industrial processes (e.g., printing and varnishing) as well as certain as yet little investigated ENMs (nanocellulose, for example).

Based on our investigations, we propose a strategy for more accurate assessment of ENM exposure using methods that require a minimum of preanalytical handling. The recommended strategy is a systematic two-step assessment of workplaces that produce and use ENMs. The first step involves testing with different DRIs (such as a CPC and a laser photometer) as well as sample collection and subsequent microscopic analysis (MPS + TEM/STEM) to clearly identify the work tasks that generate ENMs. The second step, once work exposure is confirmed, is specific quantification of the ENMs detected. The following findings are particularly helpful for detailed characterization of ENM exposure:

  1. The first conclusive tests of a technique using ICP-MS to quantify the metal oxide content of samples collected in the workplace
  2. The possibility of combining different sampling methods recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to measure elemental carbon as an indicator of NTC/NFC, as well as demonstration of the limitation of this method stemming from observed interference with the black carbon particles required to synthesis carbon materials (for example, Raman spectroscopy showed that less than 6% of the particles deposited on the electron microscopy grid at one site were SWCNTs)
  3. The clear advantages of using an MPS (instead of the standard 37-mm cassettes used as sampling media for electron microscopy), which allows quantification of materials
  4. The major impact of sampling time: a long sampling time overloads electron microscopy grids and can lead to overestimation of average particle agglomerate size and underestimation of particle concentrations
  5. The feasibility and utility of surface sampling, either with sampling pumps or passively by diffusion onto the electron microscopy grids, to assess ENM dispersion in the workplace

These original findings suggest promising avenues for assessing ENM exposure, while also showing their limitations. Improvements to our sampling and analysis methods give us a better understanding of ENM exposure and help in adapting and implementing control measures that can minimize occupational exposure.

You can download the full report in either or both English and French from the ‘Nanomaterials – A Guide to Good Practices Facilitating Risk Management in the Workplace, 2nd Edition‘ webpage.

Bob McDonald: How is Canada on the ‘forefront of pushing nanotechnology forward’?

Mr. Quirks & Quarks, also known as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Bob McDonald, host of the science radio programme Quirks & Quarks, published an Oct. 9, 2016 posting on the programme’s CBC blog about the recently awarded 2016 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and Canada’s efforts in the field of nanotechnology (Links have been removed),

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded this week for developments in nanotechnology heralds a new era in science, akin to the discovery of electromagnetic induction 185 years ago. And like electricity, nanotechnology could influence the world in dramatic ways, not even imaginable today.

The world’s tiniest machines

The Nobel Laureates developed molecular machines, which are incredibly tiny devices assembled one molecule at a time, including a working motor, a lifting machine, a micro-muscle, and even a four wheel drive vehicle, all of which can only be seen with the most powerful electron microscopes. While these lab experiments are novel curiosities, the implications are huge, and Canada is on the forefront of pushing this research forward. [emphasis mine]

McDonald never explains how Canadians are pushing nanotechnology research further but there is this (Note: Links have been removed),

Many universities offer degree programs on the subject while organizations such as the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta, and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, are conducting fundamental research on these new novel materials.

Somehow he never mentions any boundary-pushing research. hmmm

To be blunt, it’s very hard to establish Canada’s position in the field since ‘nanotechnolgy research’ as such doesn’t exist here in the way it does in the United States, Korea, Iran, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, and others. It’s not a federally coordinated effort in Canada despite the fact that we have a Canada National Research Council (NRC) National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT) in Alberta. (There’s very little information about research on the NINT website.) A Government of Canada NanoPortal is poorly maintained and includes information that is seriously out-of-date. One area where Canadians have been influential has been at the international level where we’ve collaborated on a number of OECD (Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development) projects focused on safety (occupational and environmental, in particular) issues.

Canada’s Ingenuity Lab, a nanotechnology project that appeared promising, hasn’t made many research announcements and seems to be a provincial (Alberta) initiative rather than a federal one. In fact, the most activity in the field of nanotechnology research has been at the provincial level with Alberta and Québec in the lead, if financial investment is your primary measure, and Ontario following, then the other provinces trailing from behind. Unfortunately, I’ve never come across any nanotechnology research from the Yukon or other parts North.

With regard to research announcements, the situation changes and you have Québec and Ontario assuming the lead positions with Alberta following. As McDonald noted, the University of Waterloo has a major nanotechnology education programme and the University of Toronto seems to have a very active research focus in that field (Ted Sargent and solar cells and quantum dots) and the University of Guelph is known for its work in agriculture and nanotechnolgy (search this blog using any of the three universities as a search term). In Québec, they’ve made a number of announcements about cutting edge research. You can search this blog for the names Sylvain Martel, Federico Rosei, and Claude Ostiguy (who seems to work primarily in French), amongst others. CelluForce, based in Quebec, and once  a leader (not sure about the situation these days) in the production of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). One side comment, CNC was first developed at the University of British Columbia, however, Québec showed more support (provincial funding) and interest and the bulk of that research effort moved.

There’s one more shout out and that’s for Blue Goose Biorefineries in the province of Saskatchewan, which sells CNC and offers services to help companies  research applications for the material.

One other significant area of interest comes to mind, the graphite mines in Québec and Ontario which supply graphite flakes used to produce graphene, a material that is supposed to revolutionize electronics, in particular.

There are other research efforts and laboratories in Canada but these are the institutions and researchers with which I’m most familiar after more than eight years of blogging about Canadian nanotechnology. That said, if I’ve missed any significant, please do let me know in the comments section of this blog.

ÉquiNanos, Québec’s innovative nanoparticle risk management team

ÉquiNanos as described in the January 2013 issue of Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, Medicine is both the name for an interdisciplinary nanoparticle risk management team and a model for managing that risk.

Before going further, here’s a citation and a link (if you want to see the article for yourself it is behind a paywall but everyone can get access to the abstract),

EquiNanos: innovative team for nanoparticle risk management by Sylvie Nadeau, Michèle Bouchard, Maximilien Debia, MSc, Nathalie DeMarcellis-Warin, Stéphane Hallé, Victor Songmene, Eng, Marie-Christine Therrien, Kevin Wilkinson, Barthélémy Ateme-Nguema, Geneviève Dufour, André Dufresne, Julien Fatisson, Sami Haddad, Madjid Hadioui, Jules Kouam, François Morency, Robert Tardif, Martin Viens, Scott Weichenthal, Claude Viau, Michel Camus. Nanomedicine. 2013 Jan;9(1):22-4. doi: 10.1016/j.nano.2012.08.003. Epub 2012 Sep 6.

Here’s how the Québec-based and funded authors define the issues, excerpted  from the ÉquiNanos article (Note: Footnotes have been removed),

… Lack of proper evaluation of real risks might threaten to undermine the competitiveness of nanotechnologies. In spite of multiple efforts for more general regulations, and there is currently no specific regulation governing particle size-distribution, and no consensus on the benefits of protection or on the level of safety afforded by proposed protective measures. The different perspectives of the various actors (scientists, industrials, workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Commission (CSST-Quebec), legislators, independent technologies promoters, media, public) regarding risk management reveal the need for an inter-sector approach that allows all groups to achieve their goals. …

Business organizations must manage risks associated with NP in a climate of scientific uncertainty, in the absence of a regulatory framework specifically adapted to NP and without a proven effective and efficient approach to risk management.

This is their proposed model,

ÉquiNanos consists of eight platforms (…): Adaptive decision-aid tool, public and legal governance, communication of risks, monitoring nano-aerosols at the source, evaluation and control of exposure, biological and kinetic monitoring, manufacturing,and preventative actions. Their coordination is based on a functionalistic research-action model allowing the ÉquiNanos team to get involved directly in order to transform business reality and to produce knowledge related to these transformations through communication with all stakeholders and agents of governance. The melting of disciplines and knowledge is the foundation of our inter-sector model.

The authors have provided a diagram of their proposed model,

Figure 1. Functionalistic research-action model – ÉquiNanos (OHS: Occupational Health and Safety). [downloaded from http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/science/article/pii/S1549963412005175]

Figure 1. Functionalistic research-action model – ÉquiNanos (OHS: Occupational Health and Safety). [downloaded from http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/science/article/pii/S1549963412005175]

Not surprisingly Dr. Claude Ostiguy and Dr. Andrew Maynard are both cited in the reference. Both are well known for their work in the field of risk management of nanoparticles and nanomaterials and were mentioned in my July 26, 2011 posting about a, then recent, sensationalist and somewhat inaccurate  nano risk article published in the Georgia Straight.

Équinanos looks like a reasonable model although implementation issues abound. Are businesses going to voluntarily participate? What percentage of businesses will volunteer? What about nanotechnology-enabled products that are manufactured elsewhere? What mechanism is there for transmitting and sharing information? No doubt these questions and more are being considered. It will be interesting to see if or how they manage to address these issues.

Quebec’s new report on the risks of engineered nanoparticles

Engineered Nanoparticles; Current Knowledge about OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] Risks and Prevention Measures is the title for a report (2nd edition) written by Claude Ostiguy, Brigitte Roberge, Catherine Woods, and Brigitte Soucy for the Quebec-based Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST). From the news item on Nanowerk,

An initial assessment of the state of scientific knowledge about the occupational health and safety aspects (OHS) related to synthetic nanoparticles (NP) was published by the IRSST in 2006 and covered the scientific literature until the end of 2004. What was found was that OHS knowledge was very fragmentary but that research in this field was rapidly growing. This current document aims to assess the state of current knowledge in this field and summarizes the data available until early 2010.

Overall, what emerges is that NP remain an important source of concern in OHS. In fact, not only does the diversity of commercially available chemical products of nanometric dimensions continue to increase, but also, the information available about the hazards specific to these substances is still very fragmentary. The literature gives us very little information specific to NP relating to their physical hazards like fires or explosions.

In a context of incomplete data for the majority of nanometric substances, it remains impossible to quantify the risks for workers in the majority of situations because the toxicity of the products, the level of dust contamination of workplaces, or their potential to cause fires or explosions remain not extensively documented or totally undocumented. Nevertheless, the majority of the means of exposure control for ultrafine particles should be effective against NP and much research is currently being carried out to confirm this.

In a context of uncertainty about the risks, and with an increasing number of potentially exposed workers, the current report paints a big picture of the OHS knowledge currently available in the NP field. In the absence of specific standards, a preventive and even a precautionary approach are recommended, and a review of the available means for minimizing worker exposure is presented.

The report (over 150 pp.) can be found here. There’s certainly much to appreciate in the report. Here are two bits that I particularly want to highlight, the acknowledgment that nanoparticles aren’t new,

Although the development of NT [nanotechnology] is a modern multidisciplinary science, naturally produced and manmade materials of nanometric dimensions and exposure to particles of other dimensions of mineral or environmental origin, including the fine fraction of nanometric particles, have always existed. Some of the natural nanometric particles are of biological origin – including DNA with a diameter of around 2.5 nm and many viruses (10 to 60 nm) and bacteria (30 nm to 10 μm) — while others are found in desert sand, oil fumes, smog, and fumes originating from volcanic activity or forest fires and certain atmospheric dusts. Among those generated by human activity, we should mention diesel fumes, industrial blast furnace emissions and welding fumes, which contain particles of nanometric dimensions (Teague, 2004). (p. 11 PDF, p. 1, print)

There’s also a very good (in my opinion) description of bottom-up and top-down approaches to engineered nanoparticles,

Nanoparticles can be synthesized by different approaches. Nanoparticle production can be generally categorized into the bottom-up and top-down methods. In the bottom-up approach, nanoparticles are constructed atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule. In the top-down approach (top-down), a large structure is gradually underdimensioned, until nanometric dimensions are attained after application of severe mechanical stresses, violent shocks and strong deformations. The two approaches bottom-up and top-down tend to converge in terms of dimensions of the synthesized particles. The bottom-up approach seems richer, in that it allows production of a greater diversity of architectures and often better control of the nanometric state (relatively monodispersed granulometric sizes and distribution, positioning of the molecules, homogeneity of the products). The top-down approach, although capable of higher-volume production, generally makes control of the nanometric state a more delicate operation. (p. 25 PDF, p. 15 print)

Ostiguy (last mentioned in my June 23, 2010 posting [Nanomaterials, toxicity, and Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health] as an expert witness) and his colleagues offer a good overview of  international, national, and provincial (Québec) research and development efforts including definitions for terms and descriptions of various types of nanoparticles and a discussion about markets. I was expecting something more narrowly focused on occupational health and safety (OHS) but very much appreciate the efforts to contextualize OHS issues within the larger nanotechnology ‘enterprise’ in addition to the OHS material.

Oddly, I found this on the cover page,


The IRSST makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this document. In no case shall the IRSST be held responsible for any physical or psychological injury [??? and emphasis mine] or material damage resulting from the use of this information.

Note that the content of the documents is protected by Canadian intellectual property legislation.

As for any psychological injury I may received from reading the report, what about injury from reading the disclaimer?

I do have a few nits to pick. Surprisingly since this report was published in July 2010, they did not include any information about an April 2010 nanomaterial definition proposed in the US (my April 27, 2010 posting). More picayune, reference is made to Nanotech BC which has been effectively defunct since Spring 2009 while no mention is made of Nano Ontario which I first noticed in early 2010 (Professor Gilbert Walker responded on behalf of Nano Ontario to Peter Julian’s proposed nanotechnology legislation in my March 29, 2010 posting).

I was also surprised at the certainty expressed about scientific unanimity over the dimensions,

As already mentioned, there is now unanimity in the scientific community on the dimensions of manufactured NP: at least one of their dimensions ranges between one and 100 nm [emphasis mine] and they have different properties than larger-diameter particles made of the same material (ASTM, 2006; BSI, 2008; ISO, 2007, 2008). (p. 49 PDF, p. 39 print)

As I understand it, there’s still some discussion about the one to one hundred nanometre range as I note here in my July 14, 2010 posting,

The comment about the definition sprang out as this issue seems to be at the forefront of many recent discussions on nanotechnology. Fern Wickson and her colleagues highlight the importance of the issue in their recently published paper,

Both the beginning and the end of this range remain subject to debate. Some claim that it should extend as low as 0.1nm (because atoms and some molecules are smaller than 1nm) and as high as 300nm (because the unique properties of the nanoscale can also be observed above 100nm). The boundaries of ‘the nanoscale’ are highly significant in both scientific and political terms because they have the possibility to affect everything from funding, to risk assessment and product labelling. [my commentary, Wickson’s response, and a citation for the paper, etc. can be found in my July 7, 2010 posting]

I do recommend reading the IRSST report if this sort of thing interests you as it offers answers to questions that you may (and, in my case, certainly) have been asking yourself about quantum dots, carbon black, and the state of OHS research and regulations in Canada and elsewhere.