The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is recommending that occupational exposures to carbon nanotubes and nanofibers be controlled to reduce worker’s potential risk for certain work-related lung effects. NIOSH is the first federal agency to issue recommended exposure levels for this growing industry.

In a new Current Intelligence Bulletin (CIB) NIOSH reports the results of research in which various types of carbon nanotubes/carbon nanofibers can cause pulmonary fibrosis, inflammatory effects, and granulomas in laboratory animals exposed to them by inhalation. NIOSH considers these animal study findings to be relevant to human health risk because similar lung effects have been observed in workers exposed to respirable particulates of other materials in dusty jobs.


The number of workers that are potentially exposed to nanomaterials cannot be determined with certainty. However, the demand for nanomaterials are expected to grow over the next decade with increasing use in energy saving products, consumer goods and the structural material of medical devices. These nanomaterials are also incorporated into plastics, ceramics, paints, coatings, and electronics, among other everyday products. 

Carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers are only two of many types of nanomaterials being incorporated into different products to increase strength, durability, versatility, heat resistance, and other useful properties. They are routinely used by workers in a variety of manufacturing industries including, automotive, aviation, construction manufacturers of structural materials, textiles, batteries, and consumer products such as sporting goods.

Click here to download CIB 65.