Some nanotechnology fanciers suggest that, like proverbial birds of a feather, engineered nanoscale materials will flock – or clump – together. This tendency, they maintain, should reduce or eliminate risks as nanotechnology manufacturing increases and the number of nanotechnology-enabled products grows.
Think again, cautions nanoparticle expert Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in a new article written for the United Kingdom’s SAFENANO Initiative. Drawing on available scientific knowledge, Maynard disputes the claim that the so-called agglomeration of engineered nanomaterials will result in “super-sized” clusters so large that they cannot penetrate deep inside the body, thereby eliminating the potential for harm.
“Will people really be exposed to engineered nanomaterials"” Maynard writes. “Despite protestations to the contrary, the science says, yes. There is certainly no reason to believe that exposures will not occur to both individual nanoparticles and agglomerates of nanoparticles that present a nano-specific risk.” The article – “Is Engineered Nanomaterial Exposure a Myth"” – can be found at the SAFENANO website at: http://www.safenano.org/
Maynard points out that, in addition to addressing questions about exposure, resolving concerns about potential health risks of nanotechnology also will require better understanding of the toxicity of nanomaterials – whether specific types of the materials are harmful or benign. The article is accompanied by the inaugural entry in Maynard’s new blog on the SAFENANO Initiative website at: http://community.safenano.org/Blogs/.
Both examine the current state of the science needed to answer questions about the potential environmental, health, and safety risks posed by nanotechnology – so that the benefits can be maximized. “Clearly, exposure to these materials will occur,” Maynard explains in his blog entry. “The challenge we face is surely to snap out of denial, and start to ask what the nature of the exposures will be, and whether they will lead to harm.”
Materials provided by Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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