Is the Cat Out of the Bag in Nanotech?

With the environmental, health and safety issues surrounding nanotech being turned up daily until now it is reaching a deafening din, there seems to be an accepted wisdom that somehow the cat is already out of the bag in nanotech with 500 consumer products out on the market that are enabled by nanotechnology. I think this number should represent a cause for alarm but not in the way many think.

First, a list of 1000 consumer products that might use some form of nanotechnology wouldn't impress me. I can walk down one aisle of any grocery store and count 1000 products that don't.

And secondly, I can't work up any greater sense of alarm for nanomaterials being used in my tennis balls than I can for all the other toxic materials used in other everyday products I purchase and use.

In the still inconclusive toxicological research around certain nanomaterials, the exposure takes the form of these materials being ingested (in enormous amounts) in their free-floating form, not integrated into another materials matrix. In other words, fish get fed carbon nanotubes in their pure form, but no one has placed a carbon nanotube-enabled tennis racquet in an aquarium to observe the results.

You can rest assured that the guys in the labs at the largest chemical companies are pretty aware of how poisonous the materials they work with are, but what they are concerned with is whether the final products they make with these chemicals are poisonous.

The cat is not out of the bag with nanotech, and all the wanna-be regulators who argue otherwise should re-focus their concerns towards whether nanotech is ever going to have a greater commercial and economic impact than tennis balls and racquets for their own benefit and possibly ours.


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