The Center for Construction Research and Training awarded a new pilot grant of $30,000 to Georgia Southern University through National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) cooperative agreement OH009762 (PI: Dr. Atin Adhikari, Department of Epidemiology & Environmental Health Sciences, Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health; Co-PIs: Dr. Aniruddha Mitra and Dr. Abbas Rashidi, Department of Mechanical Engineering). Construction workers experience high rates of respiratory diseases and exposure to ultrafine dust including silica nanoparticles potentially an important etiological factor. Exposure levels of nanoparticles in construction worksites are largely unknown and respiratory protection offered by commonly used respirator masks against nanoparticles in construction jobsites have never been investigated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approx. 6.7 million workers are employed in the U.S. construction industry and these construction workers are at an increased risk of respiratory diseases from exposure to respirable dust containing crystalline silica, gypsum, and other contaminants. General belief is that the dust generated during mechanical processes in construction jobsites are mostly large particles formed through crushing, drilling, grinding, or sawing. Consequently, little attention has been given to the generated submicron ultrafine and nanoparticles and their associated exposure levels. These data is, however, critically important because recent laboratory studies have demonstrated cytotoxicity of nanoparticles on lung epithelial cells. Because no data is available on the nanoparticle exposure levels among construction workers, the performance of particulate respirators generally used by construction workers were never evaluated in field conditions against particles of sub-micron and nano-size range. In this project, the multi-disciplinary research team will investigate nanoparticle exposure levels in several construction job sites by a novel newly developed nanoparticle monitoring device and also evaluate the real-time filtration efficiency of respirator masks against nanoparticles by a unique respirator evaluation set-up.
[Photo: Dr. Atin Adhikari]