December 08, 2004

Context for the Environmental “Menace”

We suppose that we should be pleased that large media outlets continue to cover nanotechnology-related issues, such as this recent article from CNN . But because of their broad audience, we suppose, articles like this one get so general as to lose much meaning, and actually become somewhat misleading. To be honest, there are only three nanotech stories in circulation: "a big big market," "a cure for everything" or "the end of the world."

For instance, the article mentions the Royal Society’s report “Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties”, but simplifies its findings down to “…called for further research into the environmental implications and possible toxicity to humans of manufactured nanoparticles”. Well, yeah, kind of, it might be worthwhile to point out one of the many important distinctions the Royal Society report makes even a 500-word news story, such as:

“Currently we see the health, safety and environmental hazards of nanotechnologies as being restricted to discrete manufactured nanoparticles and nanotubes in a free rather than embedded form…although it should be stressed that free nanoparticles and tubes represents only a small subset of nanotechnologies and there is currently very little exposure outside the workplace.”

We think it would also be interesting for someone to point out that these “free” nanoparticles are routinely produced by combustion. In fact, humans inhale pollutant nanoparticles (millions per breath) produced as the products of this combustion (also, contained in the Royal Society Report). Maybe a little bit of context for the environmental “menace” of nanotechnology would be in order, just for the sake of accuracy if not the truth.

Posted by Cientifica at December 8, 2004 07:37 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Like asbestos being seen as a "wonderful" material a few decades ago, the problem of asbestos exposure is now widely regarded as a problem. I do hope that research does take human health issues arising from Nanowires serious NOW trying avoid those surprises in future. If we are only interested how much money one can earn with Nanoparticles, the safety issues may have a hard time. Anyhow a balanced discussion on this issue would be helpful - maybe I need to do some web search for more background and seeing what has been discussed already.....

Posted by: Dirk Brüggemann at December 9, 2004 10:11 AM
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