The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other public and private entities are encouraging collaborative efforts to develop and apply exposure assessment and control, screening, and surveillance techniques for workers who handle engineered nanomaterials. The use of engineered nanoparticles is widespread in the research, development, and manufacturing of semiconductors. This pilot study will focus specifically on occupational exposures to nanoparticle metal oxides and metalloids utilized in the "chemical-mechanical planarization" (CMP) process in semiconductor wafer production. It will be led by an interdisciplinary research team at the UAlbany College of Nanoscale Science &Engineering (CNSE) NanoTech facility. CNSE is a $7 billion complex cohabited by over 250 global corporate partners, and it is the most advanced research enterprise at any university in the world for nanoelectronics research and development. The research team will work proactively and collaboratively with on-site industrial partners, as well as with the NIOSH Nanotechnology Field Research Team. The goal of this project is to enhance the occupational health and safety knowledge base through characterization of engineered nanoparticles and assessment of potential exposures during CMP tool operation, maintenance, and related tasks. The semiconductor industry has identified CMP as a critical process for health and safety evaluation. Currently, there are no published occupational health and safety evaluations of potential worker exposure to engineered nanoparticles during, or resulting from, CMP tool operation and/or maintenance - this dramatically underscores the need to fully evaluate potential exposures by technicians, engineers, tool maintenance staff, and facility workers involved in the CMP process and materials/waste handling. During CMP, aqueous slurry comprised of chemical reagents and engineered nanoparticles is used to planarize (flatten) wafer surfaces. Nanoparticle metal oxides or metalloids may be accessible for human contact during the slurry mixing or distribution process, CMP tool operation, and equipment maintenance tasks. For nanoparticles associated with CMP, this project will determine select characteristics and metrics of interest for environmental health and safety applications (e.g., size, shape, form, number concentration), identify the potential sources and routes of exposure, and assess the adequacy of existing control measures. This pilot study will serve as a basis for advancing workplace best practices and future recommendations for safe handling of manufactured nanomaterials.
Manufactured nanomaterials produced in industrial and academic settings present new challenges to understanding, predicting, and managing potential health risks to workers. This collaborative project between academia, government, and the nanoelectronics industry focuses specifically on potential worker exposure to engineered nanoparticles during chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP) operations and tool maintenance during semiconductor wafer production. This pilot study will contribute significantly to the evaluation of engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and development of recommendations for process improvements and industrial best practices.