Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building
CM NEWSLETTER
  • 31 Jan 2014
  • 0 comments

Project studies nanoparticle risk in site materials

A Loughborough University research team has won funding to examine the health and safety considerations linked to the release of “nanoparticles” in today’s construction materials once the buildings are demolished.

There is some medical research to suggest that nanoparticles, when released from their host materials and either breathed in or touched, might have harmful effects, said Professor Alistair Gibb MCIOB, director of the European Construction Institute at Loughborough University.

Nanoparticles can be found in a range of construction products and systems, including raw steel, high-strength welds and fire-resistant materials. Other nano-applications in the built environment include self-cleaning glass, super-strength bolts and flexible solar panels.

Nanoparticles – used to add strength or thickness but a thousand times thinner than a human hair – are also used in food products, touch screens for mobile phones, sunscreen, medicines and cosmetics.

Although used extensively throughout the world for at least a decade, there is little research on what happens to nanoparticles once the host product is destroyed or altered.

"Our research has three stages. The first is to identify what products have been made with nanotechnology, then to identify what particles are embedded in the product and then to see how and when they are released when the host product is demolished."

Professor Alistair Gibb MCIOB, Loughborough University.

Loughborough’s study, with results to be released in phases as it progresses, is looking only at the “bio-availability” of nanoparticles, that is, how they come to be released from their host material.

But Gibb stressed that the three-year project isn’t a medical investigation into the effects on human health of coming into contact with nanoparticles, but rather a look at what happens to the particles during demolition. “It’s an important issue because very little of construction material is not now recycled,” he said.

“Our research has three stages. The first is to identify what products have been made with nanotechnology, then to identify what particles are embedded in the product and then to see how and when they are released when the host product is demolished.”

Gibb said that the research, funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), could find, for example, that glass containing nanoparticles releases its nanoparticles only when it is melted for recycling and not when crushed.

“There is some evidence that nanoparticles act in ways similar to asbestos... but there should not knee-jerk reaction to them,” he said.

Jane White, IOSH research and information services manager, said nanomaterials are used widely but there is little knowledge about the potential impact that nanoparticles have on worker health. “This study should help us to lay the foundations for a clearer picture,” she said.

Gibb’s team will work with demolition experts from the Institute of Demolition Engineers and the National Federation of Demolition Contractors to determine recommended methods for demolition and recycling of products containing nanoparticles.

A 35-minute IOSH webinar on the subject can be found at: https://iosh.adobeconnect.com/p1edue7tiy9/

Companies that can identify and supply product samples are invited to contact the Loughborough research team at: a.g.gibb@lboro.ac.uk.

Leave a comment

News

03 August 2015 Top 10 stories you read in BIM+ and Construction Manager in July

31 July 2015 Non-SMEs face new rules to stamp out ‘modern slavery’ in UK and overseas

31 July 2015 Kevin McCloud's HAB housing in firing line over construction defects

31 July 2015 Balfour Beatty, Mace, T&T and F&G all in line for Hinkley Point C contracts

31 July 2015 UK firms target $13bn ASEAN infrastructure spend in PM's trade mission

31 July 2015 Wates and Willmott Dixon celebrate success in CMYA shortlist

30 July 2015 NHS England seeks five new-build resi projects as 'healthy town' pioneers

28 July 2015 Leading contractors deliver Wood Awards finalists

28 July 2015 Chemical blueprinting to tackle growing issue of stone theft

28 July 2015 Replace Green Deal now, says council running £20m scheme

28 July 2015 CIOB seeks future experts with two £3,000 research scholarships

28 July 2015 Zane Gbangbola inquest to examine hydrogen cyanide linked to landfill

26 July 2015 CIOB to create toolkit to tackle 'the dark side of construction'

24 July 2015 TFL funds feasibility study for east London 'Brunel Bridge'

24 July 2015 Green Deal funding joins zero carbon target on scrapheap

24 July 2015 New CIOB President sets agenda for the year at Members’ Forum

23 July 2015 Assistant Project Manager, Imperial College London

21 July 2015 Industry leaders urge chancellor to reconsider zero carbon homes 'U-turn'

21 July 2015 Aid charity Article 25 saved as T&T and Ramboll launch pro bono surveying project in Nepal

21 July 2015 Industry embracing responsibly- sourced timber, says WWF report