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Sourcelist on Chinese Worker Exposure to Nanoparticle Study

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The publication in the European Respiratory Journal of a study by Y. Song and colleagues of Capital University of Medical  Sciences in Beijing China that links nanoparticles with lung disease and the deaths of two factory workers has received a spate of quick responses from the scientific community. Below is a chronological compilation of resources and reactions to the work.

Exposure to Nanoparticles is Related to Pleural Effusion, Pulmonary Fibrosis, and Granuloma.
(Eur Respir J 2009, doi:10.1183/09031936.00178308)

  • Study of seven Chinese workers by Y. Song claims to be the first to link nanoparticles to lung disease in humans. Pathology of lung tissues indicates non-specific pulmonary inflammation, pulmonary fibrosis, and foreign-body granulomas. A workplace survey confirmed the presence of polyacrylate, consisting of nanoparticles. (18 month embargo on full-text access for non-subscribers)

Nanoparticle Exposure and Occupational Lung Disease -- Six Expert Perspectives on a New Clinical Study
(SafeNano Community Blog, 18 August 2009)

  • The collected opinions of six experts uniformly agree that the study is critical evidence of the importance of proper industrial and occupational hygiene practices in all workplace scenarios, regardless of the presence of nanoparticles. Polyacrylate was only one chemical in a complex mixture that the workers were exposed to under "extremely poor" industrial hygiene conditions. Further, the properties and concentration of the nanoparticles involved were not identified by the study, bringing its scientific analysis into question. This article is also posted on 2020 Science blog.

Physicians Link Worker Illness to Nanoparticle Exposure
(ICON Blog, 18 August 2009)

  • ICON statement on the study notes the persuasive evidence implicating nanoparticles in this case, and emphasizes the need for workplace safety, investigation into the facts of this case (the type and dose of nanoparticles found in the workers lungs), and most importantly the need for further research and effective communication of occupational health issues surrounding nanoparticles.

Death, Lung Damage Linked to Nanoparticles in China
(Reuters, 19 August 2009)

  • News coverage highlights the connection between exposure to nanoparticles and the symptoms of the seven workers studied, two of whom subsequently died. The article is also circulated in the New York Times.

Nanoparticle Safety in Doubt
(Nature 2009, doi:10.1038/460937a)

  • Nature News brief summarized the issue and reiterates the fact that a causal connection between nanoparticle exposure and lung disease can not be assumed in this case.

Occupational Disease and Nanoparticles
(NIOSH Science Blog, 24 August 2009)

  • Article provides a synopsis of the Song study and subsequently-aired concerns and recommends a prudent approach to workplace safety when nanoparticles are involved. The article also includes a link to NIOSH's Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology. 

NIOSH Questions Causal Role of Nanoparticles in Chinese Worker Deaths
(NanoRisk Blog, 25 August 2009)

  • Blog post notes that studies which lack important nanoparticle characterization details frustrate environmental and occupational health and safety researchers, for whom this information is critically important as it relates to risk management.

Nanoparticle Deaths in the People's Republic

(Nanotechnology Law Report, 28 August 2009)

  • Summary of the Song study notes that although critics of nanotechnology may point to the study in their calls for an end to the use and manufacture of nanoparticles, such an outcome is unlikely given the global investment in nanotechnology. 

Soil Association Cites Alleged Deaths in Renewed Call for Moratorium on Nanotechnology Commercialization
(Nanotechnology Law Report, 1 September 2009)

  • Guardian letter submitted by the Policy Coordinator of the Soil Association criticized the paper for not mentioning the Song study in a published supplement on nanotechnology. The letter does not reference any of the above concerns about the study.  
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