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Toxic warnings for nano industry - Industry should disclose how it tests products containing nanoparticles - !!

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  • Teresa Binstock
    Toxic warnings for nano industry By Jonathan Fildes BBC News website science and technology reporter http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4968346.stm Carbon
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2006
      Toxic warnings for nano industry

      By Jonathan Fildes
      BBC News website science and technology reporter


      Carbon nanotubes (Image courtesy of Institute of Nanotechnology)
      Carbon nanotubes are a basic building block of nanotechnology

      *Industry should disclose how it tests products containing
      nanoparticles, the Royal Society of the UK has said. *

      Public information is needed because of uncertainties over the safety of
      some products that contain particles engineered at small scales, it added.

      A new inventory of consumer goods lists over 200 items that are already
      available and contain nanotechnology.

      The European Nanotechnology Trade Alliance (Enta) responded saying there
      are already safety mechanisms in place.

      "There are strict regulations to check that products are safe and
      suitable for the public to use and our members follow these," Del Stark,
      the Chief Executive of Enta told the BBC News website.

      "The members of Enta are committed to developing new nanotechnologies in
      a safe and responsible manner and are working closely with the
      Government to ensure this."

      *Unanswered questions*

      In 2004 the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering published
      a report that urged tighter controls in Europe and the UK on some
      aspects of the industry.

      In particular it highlighted the potential risk of "free" nanoparticles
      that can escape to the atmosphere and may have an effect on health.

      Particles on this scale already exist in the air - produced by the
      burning of fossil fuels and by volcanic eruptions, for example; but
      scientists are now able to engineer materials at these tiny sizes to
      give them specific, useful properties.

      Carbon nanotubes, SPL
      Some studies show carbon nanotubes have a toxic effect

      For example, "free" nanoparticles are used in cosmetics and in some food

      "This is one particular area where there is some uncertainty about
      safety," said Professor Ann Dowling, chair of the report.

      The Royal Society statement was made in the same week that a leading UK
      researcher also said there had been a failure to act on the
      recommendations of the Royal Society report.

      Professor Anthony Seaton of the University of Aberdeen told a conference
      that specific questions raised in the report about nanoparticle toxicity
      and how to measure it in the workplace had still not been adequately

      "There is very little evidence that anyone has put any thought or money
      into answering these questions," he told the conference.

      *Carbon tubes*

      But Enta believes that the perception that industry is dragging its feet
      is wrong.

      "I don't think that it is anything to do with industry not being
      interested or government not being interested," said Mr Stark.

      Instead, Mr Stark believes that both are waiting for a new European law
      known as Reach (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals)
      to be passed.

      *Any single incident could jeopardise the whole future of the industry*
      Dr Frederic Luizi, Nanocyl

      *Q&A Reach legislation*

      The law has been described as the most important EU legislation for 20
      years and puts the onus on business to show that the chemicals they use
      are safe.

      It will also start to address the lack of standardised tests for
      assessing the toxicity of nanomaterials in some industries.

      Currently standards vary depending on which industry regulations a
      product falls under or how the tests are done.

      A recent paper in the journal Nano Letters reported that experiments
      done to assess the risk of inhaling carbon nantotubes, a common
      manufactured nanoparticle, sometimes showed strong toxic effects and
      sometimes did not depending on which methods were used.

      "Once [Reach] has been agreed we will move forward," Mr Stark said.

      *Tighter controls*

      Professor Seaton made his remarks during the Nanoparticles for European
      Industry conference in London.

      The event allows nanotechnology companies to showcase new ways of
      fabricating the tiny particles and to discuss how laboratory processes
      can be scaled up for manufacturing consumer products.

      During his address he also warned that "very little" was still known
      about the health impacts of nanoparticles engineered at small scales and
      that industry should take his comments as a "warning shot". He said his
      concern covered lab workers as well as consumers.

      How nanotechnology is building the future from the bottom up

      In pictures

      Businesses countered his remarks by saying there are already strict
      safety regulations.

      "It's not like nanotechnology is appearing totally out of the blue in a
      completely non-regulated framework," said Dr Paul Reip, interim
      spokesperson for the Nanotechnology Industry Association (NIA) and
      founder of Qinetiq Nanomaterials.

      "We're concerned as anybody else about the safety of our colleagues,
      workers and the products that we sell," he said.

      However some researchers are concerned that because nanotechnology is
      used in products from many different industries, including cosmetics,
      chemical and electronics, there is no coherent regulatory framework.

      Others are worried that regulators are not able to assess the risk of
      nanoproducts properly as the properties of materials are known to change
      at the nanoscale.

      To address some of these concerns, the Department for Environment Food
      and Rural Affairs (Defra), is in the process of extending their
      regulatory framework to take account of the unique properties of many

      It is talking to industry to find a way to set up a voluntary scheme for
      reporting test results.

      Groups like Enta say this demonstrates the industry's commitment to

      *New vulnerability*

      The production of nanoparticles is just one branch of nanotechnology
      that involves the manipulation of molecules, and even atoms, to make new

      Manufactured nanoparticles are dust-like fragments with diameters of
      less than 100 nanometres (billionths of a metre) - one thousandth the
      width of a human hair.

      Nanoparticles made from metals, alloys and ceramics are already used in
      many products, including sunscreens, paints and sticking plasters.

      A new web inventory of consumer products lists 231 products that purport
      to contain nanotechnology, showing how the tiny science is increasingly
      becoming an everyday part of our lives.

      *Click here to see a nanotech future*

      Most nanotechnology poses no known risk to humans but some researchers
      question whether nanoparticles may be different, because they are known
      to be able to cross over into areas of the body that larger
      particulates, which humans are exposed to every day, cannot reach.

      Like the Royal Society, Professor Seaton is concerned about the risk
      posed by inhaling the particles.

      *Big potential*

      In his speech, he drew a parallel with the history of asbestos and the
      disease asbestosis.

      "It was known as a wonder material and it got into thousands and
      thousands of applications," he said. "Now, thousands and thousands of
      people are dying from it."

      Any long-term damaging effects of nanoparticles are unknown.

      Frederic Luizi, research and development director for carbon nanotube
      producer Nanocyl, rejected the notion that asbestos and the many
      varieties of nanoparticle were like for like.

      "They are different and they should be considered differently," he said.

      Many producers of nanoparticles encapsulate them in polymers or liquids
      to reduce the risk of inhalation during industrial processes, and most
      of those used in consumer products are incorporated into composite
      materials that prevent their escape.

      Products like cosmetics are the exception.

      However Dr Luizi argued that industry was actually taking a cautious
      approach. This was necessary, he said, because it had to anticipate the
      demands of the legislation like Reach and because it could not afford to
      gamble on a market that some analysts expect to be worth one trillion
      dollars by 2015.

      "Any single incident could jeopardise the whole future of the industry,"
      he said. "We just cannot take any risks."

      Nanotechnology in our lives
      1 - Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) for displays
      2 - Photovoltaic film that converts light into electricity
      3 - Scratch-proof coated windows that clean themselves with UV
      4 - Fabrics coated to resist stains and control temperature
      5 - Intelligent clothing measures pulse and respiration
      6 - Bucky-tubeframe is light but very strong
      7 - Hip-joint made from biocompatible materials
      8 - Nano-particle paint to prevent corrosion
      9 - Thermo-chromic glass to regulate light
      10 - Magnetic layers for compact data memory
      11 - Carbon nanotube fuel cells to power electronics and vehicles
      12 - Nano-engineered cochlear implant



      <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4294681.stm> * Nanotech review *
      The UK government responds to a report into nanotech with another review.
      'Tighter control' for tiny science
      Prince warns of science 'risks'
      Nanotech guru turns back on 'goo'
      Tiny science lost on UK public
      Tiny particles 'threaten brain'
      Sainsbury cools 'nano-nonsense'
      Nanotech under the microscope

      Myths and realities of nanotech
      Guide to nanotech future

      Nanotech in our lives

      The Science of Small Things

      Institute of Nanotechnology <http://www.nano.org.uk/>
      Royal Academy of Engineering <http://www.raeng.org.uk/>
      Royal Society <http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/>
      University of Aberdeen <http://www.abdn.ac.uk>
      Nanocyl <http://www.nanocyl.com>
      Enta <http://www.euronanotrade.com/>
      Defra nanotechnology <http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/nanotech>
      Qinetiq Nanomaterials <http://www.qinetiq.com/home_nano.html>
      Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies <http://www.nanotechproject.org/>


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