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Nanotechnology holds great promise for industry, business, medicine and more. As government and private industry ramp up support for nanotechnology research and development (about $1billion from the Feds last year alone), one has to wonder… what do we know about the safety of nanotechnology?
In the November 18 issue of Science, Robert Service reports on the truly amazing possibilities in treating cancer with nanotechnology. How’s this for cool: gold-covered nanoparticles that attach to cancer cells and then heat up to more than 40C, cooking the cancer cells to death! Stay tuned for the remake of the Incredible Journey… The article concludes with a brief discussion on the toxicity of nanoparticles, stating, “environmental health and safety agencies around the world continue to grapple with how best to regulate these novel materials.” Despite the promise of nanotech (indeed, it’s already being used in some products), research and development should proceed with one eye on potential benefits, and the other eye on possible harms. We should avoid moving so quickly that we find ourselves with the nanotech equivalent of asbestos, MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether… a gasoline additive now being phased out due to contamination in of groundwater and uncertainty regarding its health effects in large doses), or even worse, the dreaded ‘grey goo’.