April 17, 2006 at 8:22 am | | news, stupid technology

Recently, a “nano” cleaning product in Germany was recalled because several user suffered respiratory problems and some were admitted to the hospital after using the product. (Read about it in The Economist.) Now the nanosceptics are up in arms, claiming this as proof that nanotechnology poses severe health hazards. This doesn’t appear to be the case: similar symptoms have appeared with products not containing “nanotechnology” and other products with the same nano-ingredient don’t cause problems. The real cuplrit seems to be an anti-corrosion additive in the aerosol spray.

The nano-ingredient turns out to be colloidal silicate particles that lodge into cracks and crevices on the surface, reducing places that dirt can collect.

In this case, it seems that the nanoluddites are out to lunch, but are they crazy in general? It’s not inconceivable that nanoparticles could cause health risks, and there’s no real form of testing the safety of nanotech products. On the other hand, nature invented nanotechnology far before humans started making Windex with silicate particles in it—there are a lot of nano things around us everyday. On the third hand, everyday things can harm us (think asbestos).

I dunno. I hope that new products are tested for their safety, regardless of whether they are marketed as “nano” or not. And I’m curious whether some nanodevices will turn out to pose a health risk. But I suspect this is just another case of change scaring people.


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. Editorial pages weigh in on mumps epidemic on Ethics of Vaccines. EurekAlert! – Breaking News is not exactly a blog, but it is a must-subscribe science feed. Everyday Scientist will tell you how to tell if your rabbit is dead. Also:nanoluddites? How to make your city flat greener, by Evo-Karma. Molecular evidence series is already on Part 5, on Evolution 101. Compositional Evolution: The Impact of Sex, Symbiosis, and Modularity on the Gradualist Framework of Evolution

    Pingback by Science and Politics — May 10, 2006 #

  2. Darn. I thought that I had coined a term, but apparently not.

    Comment by sam — April 17, 2006 #

  3. Nano-particles in the form of buckyballs, bucky-chains, carbon filaments and many others have been indiscriminantly dumped into our landfills and water systems because the goverment has been purposefully slow to enact hazard and safety regulations specifically targetting nano-technology.

    Since the materials many of these nano-particles are made of are not normally hazardous, they have been exempt of RCRA, OSHA and EPA regulations. However, the science of nano-technology is based on the fact that particles at nano sizes have different properties than the macro versions of the same materials. Nano-technology, being a “new” science and with lots of big money for lobbyists, has succeeded in keeping the regulators away from nano-technology.

    Unless steps are taken, years from now we will have the same hazardous waste problems we had that made the EPA Superfund Priorities List necessary.

    Comment by Dewey Williams — April 20, 2006 #

  4. Thank for the comments, Dewey. I dunno about these vast piles of cash available to pay lobbyists. Instead, I suspect that the Federal Governement is slow to keep up with technology. Also, because there haven’t been many (any?) confirmed cases of “nanotechology” harming people, there doesn’t seem to be a big concern among the public or the experts. But I think we’d be stupid not be be careful.

    Comment by sam — April 23, 2006 #

  5. It turns out that the cleaning products didn’t even contain the nanosilicate they were supposed to (they precipitated out during production). Oops!

    Comment by sam — April 10, 2007 #

Leave a comment

thanks for the comment

Powered by WordPress, Theme Based on "Pool" by Borja Fernandez
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS.