Is nanotechnology safe?

Industrial processes that use the skill to work with materials at the molecular and supramolecular levels have been developed by nanotechnologists. They will have exceptional physical and chemical properties, and are promising to drive another industrial revolution, with an apparently limitless variety of uses, from biomedical imaging, drug delivery and therapeutics, to stuff manufacturing, optics, electronics, energy generation and quantum calculation. Nevertheless, the exceptional physicochemical properties of substances also mean they may have unique bioavailabilities and other features which make them potentially hazardous to people.

While the industrial uses of nanoparticles are growing daily, less attention was paid to potential external effects and work-related health and safety (OHS) concerns in workplaces producing and using these particles, or to factors of potential health effects locally at large. There’s an urgent must handle these problems — already many consumer products include substances (eg, makeup, sunscreens, paints and fabrics), and a lot more are in development.

There are significant challenges in discovering the potential human health effects of nanoparticles. Discovering the distribution of nanoparticles within the body presents a challenge for toxicologists, as their size makes visual detection hard, and their chemical makeup may be similar to ubiquitous substances in the body (eg, elemental carbon), that might negate using conventional chemical detection systems.

These properties present many challenges to regulatory agencies in undertaking risk assessment and risk management of nanoparticles and to the medical community. There happen to be several seminal reports commissioned by authorities to summarize the essential environmental and OHS problems that must be addressed in the near future. They urged that differences in the data should be filled in immediately, where vulnerabilities happen to be happening to enable risk assessments to be conducted, starting with work-related scenarios. Nevertheless, some 2 years after, several knowledge gaps remain. Nanotechnology specialists in the US now are actually claiming that, to protect the significant investment in nanotechnologies, 10% of the NNI funding (ie, US$100 million) should be spent on safety and health problems.

Presently, community hazard related to engineered stuff is presumed to be comparatively low, because environmental release and broadscale industrial production have yet to occur. However, as production of nanomaterials expands, the potential for human exposure and adverse health effects can be likely to improve. It’s therefore imperative that appropriate regulatory regimens be set in place as soon as possible to provide acceptable protection for workers and the community. Certainly one of the risks associated with introducing new technologies, while health and safety knowledge differences remain, is a lack of faith in government regulatory systems and the possible triggering of a community backlash. Such opposition to technological innovation has been clear in other sectors (eg, with genetically modified organisms) and could end up being economically devastating for fledgling nanotechnology businesses.

As with any new technology, the security of nanotechnology is always being examined. There’s been some as yet unresolved discussion lately about the possible toxicity of a particular kind of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) — which continues to be related to tissue damage in animal studies. On the other hand, most available data suggest that there’s nothing distinctively noxious about nanoparticles as a category of substances.

The truth is engineered nanoparticles are much less hazardous insecticides used on family pets, than home cleaning products, and over the counter dandruff treatments. Surely, the nanoparticles used as drug carriers for chemotherapeutics are not as hazardous in relation to the drugs they take and are made to take drugs to tumors without damaging organs and tissue that was healthy.

Whether real or perceived, the possible health hazards related to use and the production of fabrics must be carefully examined in order to realize the important advantages that nanotechnology offers society, for example cancer research, diagnostics, and treatment and to improve our comprehension of the area of science.