On Sunday 31 July 2011 a nanotechnology-related article, entitled In harm's way, was published by the UK's The Sunday Times. The article focuses on the amount of contaminants and other chemicals in our environment. The main source for the article, a former member of the recently disbanded Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) in the UK, and Chair of the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), points out the invisible and unknown dangers of large scale chemical pollution: the list includes many often mentioned chemicals (e.g. antibiotics, fertilisers, cancer chemotherapy agents, Bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants, pesticides and even ibuprofen and paracetamol) as well as nanoparticles.
The authors describe an environmental situation stemming from modern industrial activity, where a small amount of chemical pollutant could cause a long-lasting damage, with the emerging aim to reduce the time lag between the warning and the lesson. The article's discussion mainly focuses on non-nano materials, yet there is a hint of caution for nanomaterials too: the toxicological testing of nanomaterials takes time. Therefore there is a risk in the time lag, especially taking into account a great number of nanomaterials.
Dr Denis Koltsov, Information Manager at the Nanotechnology Industries Association, however, notes that 'the risks of nanoparticles in the environment have been exaggerated'. He cites research by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in which 'scientists tested river water for particles of nano-silver - an antibacterial agent used across a wide array of industries, from air conditioning to water purification, shoemaking to construction - and found only a tenth of what they had expected'. (The relevant nano-silver studies were covered by the NIA and can be found here: Looking for Nano-Silver in British Rivers and Silver-Ion Cycle - Nature fabricates its own nano-Silver)
News item was produced by NIA in association with BREC Solutions.