Many experts while sharing the view that more research into safety is necessary don’t want to see nanotech products taken out of commercial use. New developments could help the environment and makes the world resources go further. To go to the extreme of a moratorium which prevents a lot that development happening and could in effect just push it to countries were there less control, less regulation.
To address some of the concerns about risk and regulation an international group of scientists from both the United States and Europe is now calling for a mandatory frame work for dealing with nanomaterials used by commercial companies, but one problem with introducing regulation is that different countries and industries have very different approaches to how they deal with possible risks, and that’s even if the scientists have worked out exactly what the risks are.
It’s very much about the science that we’ve simply got to stop there; we’ve got to work out what is difference and what could possibly cause harm. We’ve got to work out the rules of how we use information, how we make wise sensible choices when it comes to regulating materials. If you are regulating things you won’t make sure you’ll protect people we don’t want to regulate because it just harms the industry so the people end up losing jobs, they don’t have the products they want.
The rise of nanotechnology holds a promise of a new cleaner industrial revolution for the world, but the dangers are clear. If the scientists and regulators don’t get a right the risk could overweight the benefits all of us as consumers of the world’s newest technologies.
There’s been a lot of hype but there’s certainly a lot of potential for nanotechnology to address some of the real issues that are facing us as a global society which includes access to renewable energy, making much more efficient use of the renewable energy sources we have, such as solar, wind, wave, also access to more effective medicines and access to new materials that can replace some of the real materials, quite critical to modern technologies. But there are those who are so worried about the gaps in scientific knowledge about how nanotechnology works that they are calling for a temporary ban on the commercial sale of nanomaterials and many consumer goods until more research is carried out.
Labeling and levying consumers know that some products contain nanomaterials, they are highly experimental and that they might potentially have certain effects is a bare right for people. Many activists are concerned about possible contamination of the environment of the human body by nano particles. For example, carbon nanotubes that are ready used in products from tennis rackets to flame retardants.
It’s the question of whether or not these particles migrate outside of the product and end up in environment, and we don’t know that for sure because we don’t have these studies; those studies just aren’t being supported enough. If you think of, for example, the United States – there is about two billion and a half dollars a year that goes into investing in nanotechnology researching development, and out of that billion and a half dollars the government’s only approved about two or three per cent of that to go into EHS studies or Environmental, Health and Safety studies. So, we really need increased monetary funds to go towards investigating what some of this risk might be.
It seems that testing and regulation is not keeping up with the fast pace of innovation. Nano materials have properties that allow them to get in the places in the human body that larger materials don’t. So if they get suspended in the air, for example, they can be breathed down and get very deep into the lung and cross the lung into blood and then circulate freely in the body and potentially cause effects in any organ in the body. So, it’s a combination of novel toxicity of some of these materials coupled with an enhanced potential for them to get in the places where we wouldn’t necessarily want them to get.
So, now nano particles have become available in such a wide range of everyday products many environment list governments and scientists want to see tougher regulations being imposed to assess possible risks and to inform consumers which are current regulations governing the safety of food, cosmetics and other consumer products are not specific enough to deal properly with the threats posed by nanotechnology.
It’s a combination of the fact that the science is still evolving and therefore we have not enough to go on to develop a good regulatory system, but also the fact that the regulatory systems we have in place frequently don’t require sufficient testing of these materials and a demonstration of their safety before they are allowed into the market. But while the science is still developing and regulation is struggling to keep scientists working in the world of the extremely small have big hopes about how it might help humanity in future.
Nanotechnology – the science of the very small. It used to be a science fiction, but now it’s a fact of everyday life. A nanometer is just one millionth of a millimeter-that’s how much a fingernail would grow in a second. More than a thousand products now widely available make use of the technology. Let’s consider the benefits and the risks inherent in the increasing use of nanotechnology.
Almost anywhere you look someone somewhere is using nanotechnology to alter value of the consumer products.
Nano in the high street is peering in the goods across the spectrum, but in a very simple way, so, for instance, if you’re buying clothes you can buy clothes which are stain resistant because they’ve got a nanotech coating on them; if you’re buying spoiling goods you can buy things like tennis rackets or golf clubs that are stronger than lighter because of the nanotech in them. If you’re buying cosmetics – there are a number of cosmetic items round there which claim to be better, make you feel younger, make you feel fresher because of nanotech.
But unless you look up in inventory you are unlikely to be aware when you buy a sunscreen or a lunchbox whether it contains nano particles. Manufacturers are under no obligation to tell the public that a product uses nanotechnology, and scientists are still not entirely sure what effect those particles could be having on people or the environment or whether they could be toxic.