The NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) was established in 2004 to develop, coordinate, and deliver an organized program of research to identify, investigate, and develop science-based solutions to workplace health and safety knowledge gaps in nanotechnology. The NTRC provides overall strategic direction and coordination of the NIOSH nanotechnology cross-sector research program (http://www. cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech/). The responsibilities of the NTRC are in accordance with the legislative mandate issued to NIOSH in Section 20(a) (4) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which states:
"...conduct special research, experiments, and demonstrations relating to occupational safety and health as are necessary to explore new problems, including those created by new technology in occupational safety and health, which may require ameliorative action beyond that which is otherwise provided for in the operating provisions of this Act."
Nanotechnology is a rapidly emerging material science technology that has been identified as a critical U.S. scientific and commercial enterprise with global economic benefits. Concern over the lack of knowledge about the potential health risks associated with the handling of pure, unbound engineered nanomaterials has been expressed by investors, entrepreneurs, government agencies, and public health advocacy groups. Such concerns create potential barriers to the growth of nanotechnology and the commercialization of products and devices that could help address serious global problems concerning energy, transportation, pollution, health, and food. Issues that have been raised about worker health and safety must be addressed to ensure responsible development, societal benefit, and associated economic growth.