In an attempt to put a new twist on the environmental, health and safety (EHS) debate swirling around nanotech, a new report from the Investor Environmental Health Network "Bridging the Credibility Gap" argues that companies using nanomaterials may be defrauding investors by not disclosing the risks associated with nanomaterials.I certainly understand the instinct for kicking someone when their down, and there is no doubt the prospects for just about every nanotech company is in a slump, but does have to be done with such a fallacious argument. In a nutshell, the report seems to think companies are dissimulating their use of "asbestos-like" nanomaterials and that current SEC regulations contain eight (only eight?) loopholes that allows this kind of fraud from omission to take place. The press release for the report doesn't even try to make a distinction between carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials, instead it only discusses "nanomaterials" as though they all seem to simulate the effects of asbestos. Then after essentially making the connection between nanomaterials and asbestos seem almost airtight and beyond doubt, it lists off a a number of products containing nanomaterials "sunscren, cosmetics, food, clothing, sporting goods and packaging" that do not--with the exception of sporting goods--contain carbon nanotubes.
Lawyers do love to make it seem their services are indispensable even if they have to hype the threat a teensy bit. I managed to get through only the first minute of this 13-minute interview before I was compelled to blog on it. So, if by the end the author of the report acknowledges that "the main evidence that finds a similarity in the behavior between asbestos and some nanoparticles (namely, multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs)) rests upon research of Ken Donaldson at Edinburg University, which did not really address the issues of dose and exposure," then let me know.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.