Nanotechnology in construction and demolition: What we know, what we don’t

Self-cleaning windows, very high strength concrete and thin, super-efficient insulation are just three examples of new building materials promised by nanotechnology, which manipulates matter at the atomic level. But for all their purported benefits, little is known about the risks posed by very small, engineered particles and fibres. Some long and very thin strands might act like asbestos if they are inhaled, for instance. To begin addressing this knowledge gap, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) sponsored a research team at Loughborough University, led by Professor Alistair Gibb and Dr Wendy Jones, to investigate where these materials are used, how widespread this use is, what the potential risks are and how workers in construction and demolition might manage them. The executive summary of that report, released in January, is reproduced here with IOSH’s permission.