Scand J Work Environ Health 2019;45(3):217-238    pdf full text | Published online: 17 Jan 2019, Issue date: 01 May 2019

Current state of knowledge on the health effects of engineered nanomaterials in workers: a systematic review of human studies and epidemiological investigations

by Schulte PA, Leso V, Niang M, Iavicoli I

Objectives The widespread application of nano-enabled products and the increasing likelihood for workplace exposures make understanding engineered nanomaterial (ENM) effects in exposed workers a public and occupational health priority. The aim of this study was to report on the current state of knowledge on possible adverse effects induced by ENM in humans to determine the toxicological profile of each type of ENM and potential biomarkers for early detection of such effects in workers.

Methods A systematic review of human studies and epidemiological investigations of exposed workers relative to the possible adverse effects for the most widely used ENM was performed through searches of major scientific databases including Web of Science, Scopus, and PubMed.

Results Twenty-seven studies were identified. Most of the epidemiological investigations were cross-sectional. The review found limited evidence of adverse effects in workers exposed to the most commonly used ENM. However, some biological alterations are suggestive for possible adverse impacts. The primary targets of some ENM exposures were the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Changes in biomarker levels compared with controls were also observed; however, limited exposure data and the relatively short period since the first exposure may have influenced the incidence of adverse effects found in epidemiological studies.

Conclusions There is a need for longitudinal epidemiologic investigations with clear exposure characterizations for various ENM to discover potential adverse health effects and identify possible indicators of early biological alterations. In this state of uncertainty, precautionary controls for each ENM are warranted while further study of potential health effects continues.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 2008;34(6):463-470