Course on Nanomaterials Aims to Protect Workers

News release

For Immediate Release

October 29, 2018 – Hamilton, ON – Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) have collaborated to create a free e-course to help identify and safely control sources and products containing nanomaterials in the workplace, to protect workers from harm.

Nanomaterials are used in an ever-increasing number of products such as computer hard drives, clothing, and glare-reducing coatings for eyeglasses and cars, and continue to be a quickly developing area of research and manufacturing. With these miniscule materials, come some potentially big health hazards for workers, especially for those who use nanotechnology in research or production processes and may be exposed to nanomaterials through inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion.

Nanotechnology and Health is a free, 30-minute e-course that provides workers, managers, supervisors, and health and safety committee members with information on nanomaterials that may be found in Canadian workplaces. The course covers the potential health hazards of nanomaterials and how workers can be protected from related illness and injury. This e-course provides participants with a definition of nanotechnology, information on how nanomaterials are made, and ways to control and prevent exposure and potential health effects.

The e-course, Nanotechnology and Health, can be accessed from the CCOHS website:

Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) is a pro-active team of health and safety professionals committed to promoting the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being for workers and their communities. OHCOW strives to accomplish this through the identification of workplace factors which are detrimental to the health and well-being of all workers, through the distribution of excellent occupational health, hygiene, and ergonomic information to increase knowledge among workers, employers and the general public; and through the provision of services designed to produce changes to improve workplaces and the health of workers.


“The Nanotechnology and Health Network was established with the intent of translating high level scientific information around this important emerging issue in occupational disease prevention to workers and workplaces and includes representatives from labour, government (research and regulatory, federal and provincial) and workplace health and safety organizations including CCOHS. We are very excited to introduce the first product of this group and our continued work together.”

- Kimberly O’Connell, Executive Director, Eastern and Northern Ontario Regions, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW)

“There are widespread health concerns amongst workers who may come in contact with products containing nanomaterials in their workplaces. The Nanotechnology and Health e-course is intended to raise awareness of the potential harm caused by nanomaterials, including the identification and control of these products in all workplaces.” 

- Todd Irick, Occupational Hygienist, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW)

“Over the years CCOHS and OHCOW have collaborated on many projects that share a common goal: to create tools and resources that help affect positive change in workplaces across the country. The Nanotechnology and Health e-course is a prime example of this. We look forward to many more collaborations together in the future as we strive to keep workplaces in Canada healthy and safe. ”

-  Anne Tennier, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

Quick facts

  • Nanotechnology involves materials that are extremely small and have dimensions roughly between 1 and 100 nanometres (nm). A nanometre is 1 billionth of a metre. For example, a human hair is about 70,000 to 80,000 nm, a red blood cell is about 7,000 nm, and a virus is about 10 to 100 nm.

  • Nanomaterials can have unique physical, chemical and biological properties that make them useful in a wide variety of applications, such as making stain-free textiles using nanoscale additives or surface treatments, or targeting drugs selectively to cancerous cells.  These same properties, however, also present the potential for the increased likelihood of adverse health effects there is widespread agreement to practice the precautionary principle when handling any nanomaterials.  The continued development of new nanomaterials has the potential to impact many industries, including electronics, healthcare, construction, and consumer products.

  • Nanoparticles appear to enter the body the same way as other particles, through inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin. While there is no cut-off in size that makes particles toxic or nontoxic, some studies have shown that as particles become smaller, there is an increased likelihood of injury to occur.

  • All CCOHS e-learning courses are available in English and French.

Associated links


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For More Information (Media Only):

Jennifer Howse
Communications Specialist
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)
(905) 572-2981, Ext. 4241

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