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Behind the Scenes of Nanotechnology

Behind the Scenes of Nanotechnology

As I mentioned in my last post, understanding the ins and outs of nanotechnology is no simple task. Nanotechnology creates some pretty cool possibilities for the future, like fighting radiation poisoning, creating scratch-resistant automobile paint and applying window coatings that block heat but not light. But nanoparticles may pose health risks to humans so consumers should be on the lookout. And what about the people who work with the particles on a daily basis? As nanotechnology enters multiple industry sectors, more and more workers are at risk.

Studies indicate various health risks exist, but almost nothing has been published about the risks of human exposure to engineered nanoparticles. Scientists simply don’t have enough evidence to justify recommendations for screening workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) introduced a proposal called, “Interim Guidance on Medical Screening of Workers Potentially Exposed to Engineered Nanoparticles,” which is a good start, but by no means a complete remedy. With only vague ideas about the harms involved, scientists cannot say who should be screened and what they should be tested for. Besides, research institutes can recommend ways to reduce exposure, but they have no power to enforce the precautions.

Nanomaterials are virtually unregulated, which is the heart of the problem. There are no special regulations for production, handling, labeling, or keeping records on potential hazards. Furthermore, we’re not just dealing with a handful of specific nanoparticles that are easily identified. The world of nanotechnology is extremely complex; even chemicals that are normally harmless may become toxic on such a tiny scale.

At this point, we don’t even know which companies use nanomaterials, especially in the form of powders or sprays that workers could inhale. Medical research centers are finding that nanoparticles may be hugely beneficial for some medical treatments, but they may also be harmful if they enter a worker’s bloodstream by accident.

A connection must be established between exposure and disease but researchers need a method for testing people — it can’t just be random. The NIOSH is looking into creating registries of workers exposed to nanoparticles, but it has yet to clarify who would run the registries, what data would be gathered and how the data would be applied to nanotechnology regulations. Industries have essentially failed to self-report their use of nanomaterials, which suggests that it’s time to implement some mandatory regulations. 

Interested in trying to stop the commercialization of nanotechnology until we have a better understanding of the risks involved? Sign the petition and stay tuned to find out how nanomaterials may effect our environment.

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7 comments

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3:24PM PDT on Jul 21, 2009

It's scary the profit goes over the security no sense... what is the point?

3:34PM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

While I am concerned about the health risks posed by uncontrolled use of nanotechnology, I am more concerned that petitioning to STOP it's use until it's proven safe, will have a negative impact on the many products containing nano-particles that HAVE been proven safe.

One such product is nano-silver, a supplement that has been proven by the Natural Solutions Foundation to be the most powerful anti-viral supplement you can buy.

Read about it at http://www.nutronix.com. I believe we should all have a supply on hand in case of a REAL flu epedemic.

I think I'll pass on this petition - we should make it more targeted - or we'll give the FDA a reason to kill yet another fantastic supplement.

7:58AM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

Welcome to the land of the free! Free to put anything on the market regardless of it's consequences and danger to others - animals or plants. More and more mankind creates chemicals and products unsafe for the environment and ourselves, because it has the propensity to earn money for someone. OSHA & NIOSH (Occupational Safety and Hazard Agency & National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) do nothing but print paper informing businesses of their duties to care for and label hazardous materials.Between these agencies and the FDA they don't actively seek and limit or deter the use of ALL hazardous compounds. I'm not sure how THEY decide which dangerous ones they'll regulate and which they won't, but it is truly a disgrace we have these organizations and still have unhealthy ingredients and compounds being utilized and ingested. We need to reorganize these agencies to identify and protect the public and the environment. It should be headed up by a panel of scientists - untouchable by Lobbyists and politicians, with the power and authorization to shutdown and bring FELONY charges against any organization or individuals in violation. Save the planet and all life on it.

7:08AM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

The question should be would be willing to eat things that have Mercury in it such High Fructose Corn Syrup? I had to because I was bleeding from places I should not have and when I stopped eating HFCS all of my bleeding stopped.
Would you use soap that has two (2) very strong poisions in them that are dangerous?
Well I bet you don't know their names but I will tell you them Triclosan and Triclocarban
they are also in cleaners,cosmetics, clothing and even children's toys look them up for yourselves and you will be shocked to see what they can cause.
There are so many things that we use and eat that have proven poison in them and the government doesn't step in and stop it we would be afraid to eat anything or use anything it is scarey.

5:40AM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

People have been working with proven unsafe materials for decades. Cases in point: Electronics workers exposed to lead, cadmium, beryllium, and other heavy metals. Operators of wire bonding equipment (especially manual machines) that use aluminum wires to connect solid state devices to the world outside their packages.

Nanoparticles are just another item on the long list of workplace dangers.

5:35AM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

It is not only the danger to humans, but also to the environment. I refer you to this article from the bbcnews website, form 12 November 2008.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7722620.stm
Here below is a quote from the article:
"The commission noted a few prevalent nanomaterials that they believe to be of particular concern, including carbon nanofibres, whose constituent nanotubes have in preliminary laboratory experiments shown similar dangers to those of asbestos.

Another potential concern is nanoparticulate silver, which has made its name recently as a highly effective bacteria killer. It has been incorporated into fabrics to prevent the bacterial build-up that causes odours.

But as it is worn away during washing, nanosilver's bacteria-killing properties could wreak havoc on delicate ecosystems or municipal waste water systems that depend on bacteria. "

3:58AM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

I am inclined to vote no. However, one must have food and a place to live. Yet, I would very much like to know that the technology I am working with is safe, and that reasonable effort is being put forth by my employer to protect my health.

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