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Are There Nano- and Microplastics in the Workplace?

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A critical issue from an occupational health perspective is how workers might be exposed to Nano- and microplastic particles (NMPPs). While much attention has focused on these plastic particles in water and food, less attention has been paid to their presence in the air. Thus, inhalation of NMPPs in the workplace should be a major concern.

Workplaces such as waste management and recycling operations could expose workers to NMPPs from the degradation of synthetic products. Office or telephone workers and custodial staff can be exposed with synthetic fibers from the carpet, along with many other professions who can be vulnerable to airborne NMPPs from the breakdown of plastic.

Inhaling NMPPs can lead to toxicity that is not yet labeled partly due to their complex chemical makeup, varied sizes, and frequent combination with other hazards, resulting in mixed exposures. It can lead to adverse health effects, especially effecting the lungs when inhaled.

Presently there are no occupational exposure limits for nano- and microplastics. In the absence of occupational exposure limits for nano- and microplastics workplace safety efforts should focus on minimizing potential exposure through appropriate engineering controls such as isolation cabinets, exhaust ventilation, and utilizing good industrial hygiene practices.

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