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Map showing magnetic flux lines for nickel nanoparticles

Navigating the risk landscape that surrounds nanotechnology development can be a daunting task – especially if you are an early career researcher just getting started in the field.  There are plenty of studies and speculations around what might – or might not – be risky about nanoscale science and engineering.   But surprisingly, there are relatively few guideposts to help researchers plot a sensible course through this landscape as they set out to develop successful, safe, and responsible products. Back in June, I wrote about seven basic “guideposts” that I find helpful in thinking about nanotech risks, from a researcher’s perspective.  You can read the the full article in the journal Nature Nanotechnology – here are the highlights though: 1.  Risk starts with something that is worth protecting. We usually think of nanotechnology “risk” as the probability of disease or death occurring – or in the case of the environment, damage to ecosystems – from release of and exposure to engineered nanomaterials.  Yet the risk landscape that lies between novel nanotechnology research and successful product is far more complex, and being aware of its shifting hills and valleys can help avoid early, costly mistakes. When stripped down to fundamentals, risk concerns threats to something you or others value.  Health and well-being tick the box here, alongside integrity and sustainability of the environment.  Yet so do security, friendships, social acceptance, and our sense of personal and cultural identity.  These broader dimensions of “value” often depend on who is defining them, and the circumstances under which they are being defined.  Yet they are critically important in determining the progress of nanoscale science and engineering in today’s increasingly interconnected world. 2.  “Nanotechnology” is an unreliable indicator of risk. While the products of nanotechnology do present risks that need to be understood and addressed, the term”nanotechnology”

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What is Nanotechnology

The latest video from Risk Bites takes a four minute dive into what nanotechnology is, and why it’s important.  It was created as a primer for 5th graders – which probably means that there’ll be a lot of 5th graders at heart watching it! It also takes a somewhat less than conventional approach to nanotech: The video came about after I spent some time mentoring a fifth grade teacher this summer. While developing class material on nanotech and water, we discovered that it’s really tough to find engaging and relevant online material that can help set the scene for kids just learning about nanotechnology. Hopefully this fits the bill. (More from Risk Bites on nanotechnology)

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Single walled carbon nanotubes

Just a few years ago, carbon nanotubes were front and center of discussions around the safety of engineered nanomaterials.  These days, not so much. So what happened?  Did we do the science and discover that they’re just as safe as any other form of carbon? Or did they simply slip off the safety radar? In this month’s edition of the Journal Nature Nanotechnology, I take a look at where the state of the science is. And the verdict?  Used responsibly, the health risks of carbon nanotubes can be reduced.  But this remains a material that could cause substantial problems in the wrong hands. The article can be accessed in full from the link below if you are in the US (if you hit a paywall and would like to read it, let me know). Are we ready for spray-on carbon nanotubes? As artists and manufacturers explore the use of spray-on carbon nanotube coatings, Andrew D. Maynard explores the state of the science around nanotube safety. Nature Nanotechnology 11, 490-491, 2016. DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2016.99 From the article: “[in 2015] Günter Oberdörster and co-authors published what is possibly the most comprehensive review of carbon nanotube toxicology studies to date. Focusing on inhalation of nanotubes, they document evidence of transient pulmonary inflammation, and rapid and persistent development of granulomatous lesions and interstitial fibrosis on exposure to single- and multiwalled carbon nanotubesin rodents. They cite data indicating that inhaled long and thin multiwalled carbon nanotubes can move to the lining surrounding the lungs and penetrate it, where they can potentially cause mesothelioma. Furthermore, the authors indicate that carbon nanotubes can act as a cancer promoter — with inhalation increasing the probability of developing lung cancer from exposure to other carcinogens.” There’s a lot more in the article, but the bottom line is that the current sate of the science indicates that, if

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Nanoparticles in baby formula

There’s a lot of stuff you’d expect to find in baby formula: proteins, carbs, vitamins, essential minerals. But parents probably wouldn’t anticipate finding extremely small, needle-like particles. Yet this is exactly what a team of scientists here at Arizona State University recently discovered. The research, commissioned and published by Friends of the Earth (FoE) – an environmental advocacy group – analyzed six commonly available off-the-shelf baby formulas (liquid and powder) and found nanometer-scale needle-like particles in three of them. The particles were made of hydroxyapatite – a poorly soluble calcium-rich mineral. Manufacturers use it to regulate acidity in some foods, and it’s also available as a dietary supplement. Needle-like particles of hydroxyapatite found in infant formula by ASU researchers. Westerhoff and Schoepf/ASU, CC BY-ND Looking at these particles at super-high magnification, it’s hard not to feel a little anxious about feeding them to a baby. They appear sharp and dangerous – not the sort of thing that has any place around infants. And they are “nanoparticles” – a family of ultra-small particles that have been raising safety concerns within the scientific community and elsewhere for some years. For all these reasons, questions like “should infants be ingesting them?” make a lot of sense. However, as is so often the case, the answers are not quite so straightforward. What are these tiny needles? Calcium is an essential part of a growing infant’s diet, and is a legally required component in formula. But not necessarily in the form of hydroxyapatite nanoparticles. Hydroxyapatite is a tough, durable mineral. It’s naturally made in our bodies as an essential part of bones and teeth – it’s what makes them so strong. So it’s tempting to assume the substance is safe to eat. But just because our bones and teeth are made of the mineral doesn’t

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image-20160328-17824-d98u5v

Back in 2008, carbon nanotubes – exceptionally fine tubes made up of carbon atoms – were making headlines. A new study from the U.K. had just shown that, under some conditions, these long, slender fiber-like tubes could cause harm in mice in the same way that some asbestos fibers do. As a collaborator in that study, I was at the time heavily involved in exploring the risks and benefits of novel nanoscale materials. Back then, there was intense interest in understanding how materials like this could be dangerous, and how they might be made safer. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when carbon nanotubes were in the news again, but for a very different reason. This time, there was outrage not over potential risks, but because the artist Anish Kapoor had been given exclusive rights to a carbon nanotube-based pigment – claimed to be one of the blackest pigments ever made. The worries that even nanotech proponents had in the early 2000s about possible health and environmental risks – and their impact on investor and consumer confidence – seem to have evaporated. So what’s changed? Artist Anish Kapoor is known for the rich pigments he uses in his work. Andrew Winning/Reuters Carbon nanotube concerns, or lack thereof The pigment at the center of the Kapoor story is a material called Vantablack S-VIS, developed by the British company Surrey NanoSystems. It’s a carbon nanotube-based spray paint so black that surfaces coated with it reflect next to no light. The original Vantablack was a specialty carbon nanotube coating designed for use in space, to reduce the amount of stray light entering space-based optical instruments. It was this far remove from any people that made Vantablack seem pretty safe. Whatever its toxicity, the chances of it getting into someone’s body were vanishingly

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For tech innovation to succeed, we need parallel innovation in how we think about risk

In October 2014, Google announced it was working on an innovative nanotechnology-based approach to avoiding and managing disease. The idea was to create a pill that would deliver magnetic, functionalized nanoparticles from the gut to the bloodstream. Once there, they would circulate — presumably for days, or longer — picking up biomarkers of disease along the way. The particles would then be remotely interrogated directly by the patient, perhaps using a wrist-mounted monitor. In effect, the plan was to create the ultimate in wearable tech: a personal device that could give you up-to-the-minute information on health and wellness, much as wrist-worn devices provide feedback on fitness today. Google’s nanosensor concept is certainly audacious. Its success though will depend on overcoming a number of challenges — not least, addressing potential risks. Based on what is currently known about nanoparticle behaviour, the technology faces a plethora of possible health and environmental challenges. Failure to address these could leave the company with a non-starter on its hands. Yet the probability of causing harm is not the only risk that could prevent these nanosensors from becoming a reality. In the expanded list of potential risks, there is also the chance of outmoded or overly restrictive regulations blocking progress; or the possibility of investor ambivalence, consumer suspicion, or social media backlash. These hint at a much larger and murkier risk landscape that emerging technologies will have to navigate to be successful. Google’s nanoparticle sensors are indicative of a growing number of technologies that are facing increasingly complex risk-related challenges. Recently, the Future of Life Institute awarded close to US$7 million for research aimed at ensuring the robust and beneficial development of artificial intelligence — funding prompted by how unexpected risks could undermine the technology’s development. Earlier this year, published research into using the gene-editing technique

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Characterizing nanoparticles in the 1880s

On May 29th, there were 52,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter of air measured at the top of the Eiffel Tower. This may not seem the most compelling opening to an article, until you realize that the measurement was made in 1889 – over 100 years before nanotechnology and nanoparticles began hitting headlines as one of the most talked about emerging technologies in recent decades. The particles were measured by the Scottish scientist John Aitken, using his newly developed device for counting airborne dust particles.

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Dunkin Donuts Hopes To Raise $400 Million Through IPO

In response to pressure from the advocacy group As You Sow, Dunkin’ Brands has announced that it will be removing allegedly “nano” titanium dioxide from Dunkin’ Donuts’ powdered sugar donuts. As You Sow claims there are safety concerns around the use of the material, while Dunkin’ Brands cites concerns over investor confidence. It’s a move that further confirms the food sector’s conservatism over adopting new technologies in the face of public uncertainty. But how justified is it based on what we know about the safety of nanoparticles? Titanium dioxide (which isn’t the same thing as the metal titanium) is an inert, insoluble material that’s used as a whitener in everything from paper and paint to plastics. It’s the active ingredient in many mineral-based sunscreens. And as a pigment, is also used to make food products look more appealing. Part of the appeal to food producers is that titanium dioxide is a pretty dull chemical. It doesn’t dissolve in water. It isn’t particularly reactive. It isn’t easily absorbed into the body from food. And it doesn’t seem to cause adverse health problems. It just seems to do what manufacturers want it to do – make food look better. It’s what makes the powdered sugar coating on donuts appear so dense and snow white. Titanium dioxide gives it a boost. And you’ve probably been consuming it for years without knowing. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration allows food products to contain up to 1% food-grade titanium dioxide without the need to include it on the ingredient label. Help yourself to a slice of bread, a bar of chocolate, a spoonful of mayonnaise or a donut, and chances are you’ll be eating a small amount of the substance. Why does As You Sow want this substance gone from Dunkin’ Donuts?  

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Is-novelty-in-nanomaterials-overrated-when-it-comes-to-risk

Novelty and nanotechnology are deeply intertwined. The search for nanostructure-enabled materials has driven research funding in nanotechnology for well over a decade now; the exploitation of novel properties has underpinned the commercialization of nanomaterials; and concerns over potential risks has stimulated widespread studies into what makes these materials harmful. Yet ‘novelty’ is an ephemeral quality, and despite its close association with nanotechnology, it may be an unreliable guide to ensuring the long-term safety of materials that emerge from the field. If this is the case, do we need to find alternative approaches to developing advanced materials and products that are safe by design?

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Could we one day 3D print a brain

Could we one day 3D print Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brain?  Before you ask, yes, this is a post about risk.  And no, I’m not talking about the dangers of immortalizing the star of Terminator Genisys‘ real-life biological brain. But to begin somewhere near the beginning: 3D Printing 3D printing – and additive manufacturing more broadly – are on a roll.  The idea of creating objects by building them up them layer by layer has been around for a while.  But over the past couple of years, there have been massive advances in access to low cost, extremely sophisticated 3D printing technologies. At one end of the spectrum, you have devices like the $100 Peach Printer.  At the other, industrial 3D printers that are capable of making on-demand parts for jet engines and other high performance products.  And in between, printers that are enabling everyone from kids and hobbyists to entrepreneurs make stuff that it wasn’t possible to make just a few years ago. The technology is opening new doors to how products are made.  But it’s also potentially leading to new health risks.  Whether it’s the products of 3D printers (how do you control weapons that can be printed at-source, or ensure the safety of a bespoke 3D printed car?), to the emissions from the devices (just how many 3D printers in a classroom does it take before the kids are inhaling more nanoparticles and fumes than is healthy?), 3D printing raises questions around risk and safety. Environmental Implications of Additive Manufacturing This past October, I participated in a National Science Foundation workshop on the Environmental Implications of Additive Manufacturing.  It was a valuable meeting – I want to emphasize that, just in case you suspect that my mind began to drift during the proceedings with what follows.  We talked extensively about the potential health risks of 3D printing and other forms of additive manufacturing,  and

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First published in Nature Nanotechnology, 5 March 2014.  Nature Nanotechnology 9, 159–160 (2014) doi:10.1038/nnano.2014.43 [Link] Ten years after the publication of an influential report on the uncertainties in nanoscale science and engineering, are we in danger of creating a new metaphorical grey goo? In 2004, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (RS-RAE) in the UK published the report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties [1]. At the time it was widely speculated that the report arose from concerns expressed by Prince Charles over the possibility that nanotechnology could lead to a ‘grey goo’ scenario where self-replicating ‘nanobots’ destroy life as we know it [2]. Outlandish as the alleged motivation was (and Prince Charles was quick to downplay reports of his grey goo concerns [3]), the resulting report set the pace for the next decade of global research into the potential impacts of nanotechnology — and how to avoid them. Around the time the report was commissioned, concerns over the potential unanticipated consequences of nanotechnology were beginning to gain wider traction [4]. Essays like Bill Joy’s ‘Why the future doesn’t need us’ [5] were raising concerns in the public domain, and professional interest in possible human health and environmental impacts of nanoscale science and engineering had been growing steadily for the previous decade. As far back as 1992, for example, the journal Nature published a Correspondence raising the issue of possible asbestos-like behaviour of carbon nanotubes [6] — less than a year after Sumio Iijima published his seminal work on the structures [7]. And during the 1990s, particle toxicologists began revealing increasingly unusual biological interactions associated with certain nanoscale particles [8]. During this period, the US and other countries were beginning to invest heavily in nanoscale science and engineering as an engine of economic growth [9]. Alert to a potential public backlash against the

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On September 23, the Food and Drug Administration sent Rima Laibow and Ralph Fucetola at the Natural Solutions Foundation a warning letter claiming that their allegedly nano (colloidal) silver based “Dr. Rima Recommends™ The Silver Solution” product violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDC Act). Earlier in September, I wrote about Rima Laibow’s promotion of the use of her nano silver product as a preventative and cure for ebola in Nigeria. The FDA warning letter cites the therapeutic claims made of nano silver as a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act: The therapeutic claims on your websites establish that the products are drugs because they are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. As explained further below, introducing or delivering these products for introduction into interstate commerce for such uses violates the Act. According to the letter: Your “Personal Protection Pack,” “Family Protection Pack,” “Dr. Rima Recommends™ The Silver Solution,” and “CBD Organic Dark Chocolate Bars” products are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced uses and therefore, these products are “new drugs” under section 201(p) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(p)]. New drugs may not be legally introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce without prior approval from the FDA, as described in section 505(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 355(a)]; see also section 301(d) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(d)]. FDA approves a new drug on the basis of scientific data submitted by a drug sponsor to demonstrate that the drug is safe and effective. Furthermore, your products identified above are offered for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layperson can use these drugs safely for their

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September was a busy month at the Risk Science Center. To coincide with NOVA’s new documentary Vaccines – Calling The Shots, we’ve posted a number pieces on the topic of vaccines.  Nanotechnology has also featured prominently, with a new article in Nature Nanotechnology on fumed silica in food products, and the announcement that I will be working with the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on nanotechnology for the next two years. We’ve also posted links to new articles on noise and health and BRCA screening.  And of course I had the surprise of being listed as one of Science Magazine’s top 50 scientists on Twitter!  You can read the full monthly update here. More importantly though, we now have two ways in which you can keep even more up to date with what we’re doing here: 1.  Join the Risk Science Center email list – we’ll send you monthly updates on all the cool and exciting stuff that’s going on here.   2.  Subscribe to this website, and be the first to hear when new articles are posted – over the past month we’ve covered everything from breast cancer screening and perceived risks of vaccines to effective science communication.   Both are well worth the price 🙂

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Syringe

Update Oct 2: With concern over ebola in the US growing, I’m seeing a number of websites advocating the use of colloidal or nano silver as an effective preventative or cure.  Just to be clear – there is no research that suggests ingesting colloidal silver is any more effective than wishful thinking in treating or avoiding ebola infections.  Until evidence-based treatments are more widely available, the best advice is to listen to expert public health organizations like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. On Thursday this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ebola victims in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos will receive Nano Silver in an attempt to treat the infection.  The news comes hot on the heels of the World Health Organization’s decision to sanction the use of unlicensed Ebola drugs in West Africa on ethical grounds.  It also coincides with a US Food and Drug Administration statement released yesterday warning against fraudulent Ebola treatment products. Is the use of nano silver a legitimate application of on unlicensed treatment, or cynical exploitation of a mounting humanitarian crisis?  Having studied and written about the biological impacts of nano silver for some years now, I must confess I was surprised by the Nigerian decision. Silver as an antimicrobial Silver has been used as an antimicrobial agent for thousands of years – the Romans used to use silverware to reduce food and drink-borne infection.  More recently, nanoparticles of silver have been used in everything from food containers to socks in an attempt to imbue them with microbe-killing properties. When used in the right way, the material certainly does exhibit antimicrobial properties.  But there’s a massive jump from odor-resistant socks to curing Ebola patients.   An Open Letter on Ebola Treatment to Nigeria’s President The Nigerian decision to treat patients with

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Pick up a jar of chili powder, and the chances are it will contain a small amount of fumed silica – an engineered nanomaterial that’s been around for over half a century.  The material – which is formed from microscopically small particles of amorphous silicon dioxide – has long been considered to be non-toxic. Amorphous silica is widely used as a flow agent in food powders – it’s what stops chili powder clumping together and sticking in the jar – and the Food and Drug Administration allows up to 2% by weight in food products.  Yet recent research is beginning to question assumptions over the material’s safety. In this month’s edition of the journal Nature Nanotechnology, I examine previous reviews of fumed silica safety, alongside two recent studies that suggest it may not be as benign as originally thought. Fumed silica may be more toxic than thought To cut a long story short, recent research suggests that there are toxic chemical groups that form on the surface of fumed silica during production, and that high exposure to sensitive parts of the body could be harmful.  However, the weight of evidence from cell and animal studies suggests that ingesting small amounts of fumed silica is not harmful. That’s the good news.  But in many ways, this is just the backstory to a more challenging issue raised in the article – when surprising new insights emerge on possible material health risks, where does the responsibility lie for ensuring that new research is conducted on material safety, without this research influencing consumers and regulators before there is plausible justification for action? Published research and public discourse Newly published research is becoming increasingly influential in public discourse – academic institutions regularly publicize and push papers through press releases; peer review publications are becoming easier for anyone to access; and

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Why are materials important? How do they limit what we can achieve? And what can we do to change this?  (Check out the videos below). Advanced Materials Materials and how we use them are inextricably linked to the development of human society.  Yet amazing as historic achievements using stone, wood, metals and other substances seem, these are unbelievably crude compared to the full potential of what could be achieved with designer materials. Over the past 20 years or so, the field of nanotechnology has stimulated massive strides in designing and engineering new materials from the scale of atoms up.  It’s now possible to stitch together atoms in novel ways to create materials that far outperform their historic counterparts.  But we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible.  Scientists and engineers are now learning how to design highly sophisticated materials that behave in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago – lightweight metals, flexible glass, cloaking materials,tissue repair scaffolds and more; the full list of emerging materials is impressively long, and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a science fiction anthology not so long ago. As these new, advanced materials begin to find their way into the products you use and rely on, what do you need to know about what they are, and how they can be developed and used responsibly? The Risk Bites channel over on YouTube has a series short primers on advanced materials – check them out below (they’re only a few minutes long). Or if you are feeling more adventurous, check out the slightly longer Brief Introduction to Advanced Materials, which pulls all the information into one 22 minute video. A Brief History of Materials   Designer Materials in the 20th Century   Advanced Designer Materials   Are Advanced Materials Safe?   What Makes Advanced Materials Harmful?   Do Novel Materials Present Novel Risks?

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Chemistry World posted a good article yesterday on nanotech regulation in Europe (Europe mulls best way to handle nanotech by Andrew Williams).  I have a couple of quotes in the piece, along with Risk Science Center colleague Diana Bowman).  These are taken from a longer set of responses to questions from Williams, which I thought it might be worth posting here (edited slightly so that they make more sense grammatically!) What are currently the main EU nanomaterial regulations? What are the key elements of these regulations? What is REACH’s (Registration Evaluation Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals regulations) stance as a pan-national regulation on nanomaterials – and is it moving towards the creation of a register? REACH has deep implications to how chemical substances are assessed and regulated across the European Union, and is impacting on any company either wanting to trade with member states, or manufacture within these states (and so the reach – if you’ll forgive the pun – goes well beyond the EU). Two associated issues here are what constitutes a nanomaterial, and whether the explicit differentiation of nano- and non-nanoscale materials make sense within the context of REACH. The EC Joint Research Council recently published a massive 280+ page document evaluating the previously released definition of nano materials for regulatory purposes – and this is just part one of the definition review process! This document provides a deep and scientifically rigorous assessment of considerations relevant to a definition for regulatory purposes, but is still driven by the assumption that there is something unique about engineered nanomaterial risks that requires them to be distinguished from other materials. I continue to argue that some emerging materials will lead to unanticipated health challenges, but that fixating on the nanoscale potentially blinkers a larger conversation about advanced material safety (latest piece on this).  

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I was going through the 2020 Science archives the other day looking for pieces on nanoparticles and sunscreens, and was rather shocked to see that the earliest article dates back to 2008! Here they are in chronological order – surprising how little things change with time!  The 2010 exchange with Friends of the Earth is definitely worth a revisit. Nano-sunscreens leave their mark June 21 2008 Accelerated aging on steel roofing in Australia suggests the use of photoactive particles in sunscreens.  Read the full article → Industry critics give nanotechnology sunscreens the thumbs up July 3 2009 The NGO Environmental Working Group (EWG) endorses the use of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens (they still do). Read the full article → Sunscreens and Alzheimer’s – solid science or scare-mongering speculation? August 25 2009 Speculation on links between nanoparticles in sunscreen and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinsons and Alzheimers.  A very poorly conceived press release was at the heart of this – and from a university!  Read the full article → Friends of the Earth come down hard on nanotechnology – are they right? June 8 2010 Back in 2010 Friends of the Earth Australia had some beef with nanoparticles in sunscreens – they still do.  Read the full article → Just how risky could nanoparticles in sunscreens be? June 8 2010 I challenge Friends of the Earth Australia to answer the question ” What is your worst case estimate of the human health risk from titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens?  Read the full article → Just how risky can nanoparticles in sunscreens be? Friends of the Earth respond June 15 2010 I asked the question – Friends of the Earth Australia respond. Read the full article → The safety of nanotechnology-based sunscreens – some reflections July 18 2010 …And

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I’ve been fascinated by the coverage of Surrey nanosystems’ carbon nanotube-based Vantablack material this week. The material’s had widespread coverage – just Google “vantablack” to see what I mean.  But in amongst all the geeked-out media excitement over the world’s darkest material, there’s been nary a word on the possible health risks presented by the material. As it turns out, this is fair enough, as the likelihood of anyone being exposed to substantial amounts of Vantablack carbon nanotubes is pretty low – as I discussed the other day. But consider this: 1.  Certain forms of carbon nanotubes are known to be highly toxic if inhaled; 2.  Past media coverage (and research) has compared long, thin, straight carbon nanotubes to asbestos; 3.  The biggest no-no with carbon nanotubes would be to use them in clothing and furnishings where they could be released and inhaled; and 4.  Rather a lot of the media coverage of Vantablack speculated about  the material’s use in ultra-black clothing. You’d have thought that, with this context, at least one journalist would have written something about the potential risks and how they might be avoided. But apart from the 2020 Science piece posted on Wednesday, I cannot find a single article that goes beyond giddy excitement. (If you do find one, please post the link in the comments!) I guess tech writers either don’t care that much about the possible risks of engineered nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes, or don’t know enough to care. Which is disappointing for readers who’d like to know about the possible risks as well as the potential benefits – even if the risks are negligible.  

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What are the risks of nanoparticles in sunscreens? The New York Times has just posted an “Ask Well” article today by Deborah Blum answering the questions What are the risks from nanoparticles of titanium in sunscreens? and I am curious about the dangers of nanoparticles in sunblocks Risk Bites As I uploaded a YouTube video recently on the risks of TiO2 nanoparticles in sunscreens, I thought this was probably an opportune time to flag it up here, as it compliments Deborah’s piece: And just for the heck of it, here’s the 2020 science archive on sunscreens and nanoparticles. The New York Times also posted their own video (here).  It covers much of the same ground as Deborah’s piece. The video frustratingly does refer to “titanium” in sunscreens – probably because the first of the questions above uses this terminology.  It’s worth pointing out that titanium dioxide and titanium are not the same, even though they both contain atoms of titanium – just like carbon and cyanide aren’t the same.  And believe me, if airplane manufacturers for instance were as cavalier about whether they were using titanium dioxide or titanium, we’d have a problem!  But this may just be me nit-picking! Titanium dioxide and cancer Both the New York Times video and article also refer to the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) classification of titanium dioxide as a potential carcinogen.  This classification was solely associated with inhalation exposure, where one study showed that overloading the lungs of rats with massive amounts of titanium dioxide dust led to some cancer formation.  It is not related to skin applications of the substance.  It is also highly controversial, as the levels of titanium dioxide used in these studies were so massive that they utterly overwhelmed the lungs defense mechanisms, and led to a result that would probably

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2020 Science is published by Andrew Maynard - Director of the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University. More ... 

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