Nano Silver in Your Underwear? 600 Products With Nanoparticles Are Barely Regulated
These "Silver Fragrant Seamless Skintight Panties" and "Anti Odor Healthy Socks" have nanosilver ions, from Tsung-Hau Technology.
Nano-scale materials are now being widely used in industry without major research available about the both the environmental and safety risks some of the materials may pose, says Britain's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
The Commission was careful to say that there's no current evidence of major harm to consumers or the environment thus far from nanomaterials, which are used over a wide range of industries - in clothing fabric, cosmetics and personal care products, electronics, and many a new product touted by TreeHugger, such as thermal insulating nano paint. The Journal of Industrial Ecology recently speculated in its June 2008 issue that too little is known at present, but that nanomanufacturing may leave a large environmental footprint. And the UK Commission did issue one specific consumer recommendation, hinted at in the graphic above and explained after the jump.Professor Sir John Laughton, the Commission chair, specifically said he would not recommend the use of nanosilver in clothing, because of its potential to leak into the environment. Nanosilver has found favor in anti-bacterial socks, for example, and even anti-bacterial underwear, but over time the small particles of silver could wash out and wreak havoc on water systems.
Carbon nanotubes have also in recent experiments also demonstrated potential harm to humans similar to that of asbestos fibers.
Organic is no guarantee there won't be nanoparticles in the product
And nanoparticles in cosmetics have also caused some unease. The main worry is that consumers don't know what nanoparticles they may be being subjected to, as producers are not labeling their use. Companies with a green hue like The Body Shop and Green People are reportedly using nanotechnology in UV filters for their sunscreens.Independent experts consulted for the Commission's study have said that it may be two decades before toxicological or environmental data on nanomaterials can "catch up" with their usage.
Whatever happened to the Precautionary Principle?
As wonky as it might sound, the precautionary principle is well, pretty good. It states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or the environment (in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue) the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action. Because Europe has used the principle to guide some technology policy, it's a bit incredible that nano particles have thus slipped under the radar, so to speak. One reason is that nano technology covers so many different uses in so many industries.
In 2001 the European Environment Agency published a report with 14 case studies of technologies or syndromes - Mad Cow, PCBs, asbestos - where not heeding early warnings led to failures to protect human health and the environment. In order for nanotechnology not to be another case study on how NOT to introduce a new technology to society, Nature Nanotechnology study authors Steffen Foss Hansen, Andrew Maynard, Anders Baun and Joel A. Tickner warn that nanotechnology needs to quickly catch up in terms of standards and research.
Maynard et al. say nanotechnology needs to: develop instruments to assess exposure to engineered nanomaterials in air and water within next 3-10 years; create and test ways of evaluating the toxicity of nanomaterials in 5-15 years; generate models to predict their possible impact on the environment and human health over the next 10 years; develop ways to assess the health and environmental impact of nanomaterials over their entire lifetime, within 5 years; and, enable risk-focused research into nanomaterials, within the next 12 months. Here's a list that tries to show all of the products using nanotechnology. Via: BBC
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