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UMass Lowell to Host Global Nanotech Conference

Scientists Present Health and Safety Research

Candace Tsai
Candace Tsai, one of the organizers of the nano safety conference, tests nanoparticle exposure. She will present the research results at the August conference.

By Karen Angelo

Nanotechnology’s promise to revolutionize everything from medicine, electronics and energy production could trigger the economy’s next “Industrial Revolution.” But for it to succeed, researchers first must figure out how to prevent potentially dangerous health effects of the tiny materials, which are one-thousandth the width of a human hair.

UMass Lowell faculty are among the leading experts doing just that.

To share the latest on nanotechnology health research, UMass Lowell hosted the fifth annual International Symposium on Nanotechnology, Occupational and Environmental Health from Aug. 9 to 12 at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. More than 400 academic scientists, business and government leaders from 26 countries were expected to attend. 

“We are at the tipping point of nanotechnology being infused in almost any industry, from computer chips to cancer drugs and solar energy. All of this makes it critical to stay on top of the latest research so that we can solve any health issues upfront and move onto mass commercialization,” says Prof. Michael Ellenbecker of the Department of Work Environment who, with team leader Candace Tsai, works with companies to develop nanomaterial control strategies and best practices. 

Tsai, manager of environmental health and safety for the National Science Foundation Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing – a collaboration of UMass Lowell, Northeastern University and the University of New Hampshire – co-chaired the conference with Ellenbecker and presented research on effective ventilation design for limiting nanoparticle exposure.

Nanoparticles can be harmful because they are so tiny they can pass deep into the skin, lungs and blood. 

The University’s renowned team of nano safety experts, including Ellenbecker and Tsai and professors Eugene Rogers, Dhimeter Bello and others, presented research results on practical strategies to protect nanotube workers, the effects of nanoparticles from photocopiers and measuring exposures from nanomaterials.

Conference to Feature Renowned Experts

The event’s keynote speakers included:
  • John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and coordinator of the Department’s World Trade Center Health Programs.   
  • Mihail C. Roco, senior adviser for nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation and a key architect of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. 
  • Gunter Oberdorster, professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester and director of the University of Rochester Ultrafine Particle Center. 
One-day educational courses included separate tracks on nanoparticle toxicity, occupational health and safety, environmental releases and exposures and regulatory status.