Dr. Elina Buitrago


Risk assessment and education strategies for nanotechnology researchers


As the number of nanomaterials used in research increases with an incredible speed, health and safety specialists are faced with the challenge of evaluating the risks involved with this kind of work. At this moment in time, there is not enough information about the toxicology of nanomaterials, and new materials are continuously being developed. Preliminary scientific results indicate that nanomaterials might have a damaging impact on human health, which makes it all the more important to put the right protective measures in place.
To address this challenge, a practical risk management procedure for working with nanomaterials is presented. With a schematic decision tree approach that allows for simple determination of the hazard level and nano classification of a laboratory with three control bands, the task of choosing protective measures is largely simplified. Our methodology is adaptive and learning based, and it allows for the scientists to classify their laboratories and activities themselves. It takes into account both the hazard level of the nanomaterial and the exposure. The method will be compared to other published approaches for assessing the risks involved with working with nanomaterials.
Further, safety education strategies aimed to increase the safety level in a research and teaching institution and the impact that the implementation of safety management at EPFL has had on the behavior of the laboratory personnel will be discussed.


Dr Elina Buitrago works as an occupational safety specialist in the Safety Competence Centre at the EPFL since 2016. She studied organometallic chemistry at Stockholm University where she also received her PhD. She was then a postdoctoral researcher at the Université Grenoble Alpes in the field of bioinorganic chemistry. Her focus today is on safety related to nanomaterials in a research environment.