Tiny Troubles: Nanoparticles are Changing Everything From our Sunscreen to our Supplements

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Over 600 products now on the market contain nanoparticles so small that they may have dangerous biological impacts yet to be determined. Nanaparticles could be the asbestos of this century.

Nanotechnology is a quickly growing global industry which is, for the most part unregulated. The worry lies in the fact that when these materials are reduced down to the miniscule nano scale, they take on an entirely different and uncommon set of properties. For example, they could become electrically conductive, or able to penetrate cell walls.  More specifically, studies conducted on the negativities of nanotechnology are diminutive compared to those conducted on the positive effects produced.  Of $1.5 billion in federal nano spending each year, only between 1% and 2.5% goes towards studying environmental, health and safety risks.

On the other hand, these particles “are used to build innovative materials currently used in hundreds of products worldwide, from socks to sunscreens and even food supplements,” according to Louise Gray, Environmental Correspondent. Along with this, medical researchers are investigating ways to use nanomaterials to target tumors. This would allow doctors to deliver medication directly to cancer cells within the body, and leave the healthy cells absolutely unharmed.  Also, possible green tech applications would make for cheaper, more efficient solar panels and water filtration systems, energy-saving batteries and lighter vehicles that ultimately use less fuel.

However, nanoparticles are being compared to asbestos. A substance once seen as a miracle fire-proofing agent, is now associated with lawsuits, illness, and death. Much of the damage caused by asbestos could have been avoided if the government had taken note of the very present danger signs

Title: Tiny Troubles: Nanoparticles are Changing Everything From our Sunscreen to our Supplements

Source: E Magazine      July/August 2009

Author: Carole bass

Student Researcher: Lauren Faulkner

Faculty Evaluator: Jon Fukuto

Sonoma State University: Sociology of Media, Fall 2009

Instructor: Peter Phillips,  #03