Will nanotechnology revive flagging fortunes in the industrial hygiene world? Not alone, but it could be a shot in the arm for a profession stung by declining public and political support for worker health and safety protections.

Labeled an emerging issue by American Industrial Hygiene Association leaders, "Nanotechnology," is slated for an online AIHA-sponsored seminar Wednesday, April 20 from 2-3 p.m. EDT.

Nanotech has all the earmarks of an emerging environmental health and safety issue. It's fast-growing: between 1997 and 2003 global government investment rose from $432 million to just under $3 billion. Millions of workers are exposed — estimated at two million in the U.S. Potential health risks are unknown, debatable, unregulated and invisible for all practical purposes. (Nanoparticles are one-80,000th the width of a human hair.)

It makes sense for industrial hygienists to get out in front of nanotech issues. Many nanomaterials (used in medical imaging, drug delivery, cosmetics and many other applications) are formed from ultrafine particles initially produced as aerosols or colloidal suspensions. Exposure can occur during manufacturing through inhalation, dermal contact and ingestion.

There are opportunities for IHs to get involved in health risk research, risk communication and possible regulation.

To register for "Nanotechnology," visit the AIHA Web site at www.aiha.org.

Meanwhile the business of nanotech is cranking up. "NanoBusiness2005," claimed by its sponsor to be world's largest conference on all things nano, runs for four days starting May 22.

"In many respects, nanotechnology is still a lab phenomenon," says one researcher, "and understanding the current state of the emerging science and technology is vital to building sustainable businesses."

For registration or to see the full conference program, visit the conference Web site at www.bccresearch.com/conferences/nano2005/ or www.nanoevent.com.