Pandora’s Boxes

A PAIR OF SCIENTISTS, sporting white clean-suits complete with helmets and face masks, approach a prefab agricultural greenhouse in a clearing at Duke University’s Research Forest. Inside are two long rows of wooden boxes the size of large horse troughs, which hold samples of the natural world that surrounds them—the pine groves and rhododendron thickets of North Carolina’s piedmont, which at this moment are alive with bird song.

Looking a lot like the government bad guys in E.T., the two men cautiously hover over a row of boxes containing native sedges, water grasses, and Zebra fish to spray a fine mist of silver nanoparticles over them. Their goal: to investigate how the world inside the boxes is altered by these essentially invisible and notoriously unpredictable particles.

The researchers are part of a multidisciplinary coalition of scientists from Duke, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Howard, Virginia Tech, and the University of Kentucky, headquartered at Duke’s Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT), that represents one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to measure how nanoparticles affect ecosystems and biological systems.

So far the questions about whether nanoparticles are an environmental risk outnumber the answers, which is why the Duke scientists take the precaution of wearing clean-suits while dosing the boxes—no one’s sure what exposure to a high concentration of nanoparticles might do. Among the few things we do know about them are that they sail past the blood-brain barrier and can harm the nervous systems of some animals.

The regulation of nanoparticles has been recommended for more than a decade, but there’s no agreement on exactly how to do it. Meanwhile, the lid has already been lifted on nanotechnology. The use of man-made nanoparticles has spread into almost every area of our lives: food, clothing, medicine, shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, and thousands of other products.

Regulatory structures, both here and abroad, are completely unprepared for this onslaught of nanoproducts, because nanoparticles don’t fit into traditional regulatory categories. Additionally, companies often shield details about them by labeling them “proprietary”; they’re difficult to detect; we don’t have protocols for judging their effects; and we haven’t even developed the right tools for tracking them. If nanotechnology and its uses represent a frontier of sorts, it’s not simply the Wild West—it’s the Chaotic, Undiscovered, Uncontrollable West.

And yet, when I visit the boxes on a warm spring day filled with the buzzing of dragonflies and the plaintive call of mourning doves, they look perfectly benign and could easily be mistaken for a container garden. But there are hints that more is going on: each “mesocosm” (a middle ground between microcosm and macrocosm) is studded with probes and sensors that continually transmit data to CEINT’s central computer.

As I instinctively squint my eyes to try and locate evidence of the silver nanoparticles inside each box, I realize I might as well be staring down at these research gardens from another arm of the galaxy. The scale of these two worlds is so disparate that my senses are destined to fail me.

AS WITH MANY THINGS that are invisible and difficult to understand—think subatomic particles such as the Higgs boson, muons, gluons, or quarks—any discussion of nanoparticles quickly shifts into the realm of metaphor and analogy. People working in nanoscience seem to try to outdo each other with folksy explanations: Looking for a nanoparticle is like looking for a needle in the Grand Canyon when the canyon is filled with straw. If a nanoparticle were the size of a football, an actual football would be the size of New Zealand. A million nanoparticles could squeeze onto the period at the end of this sentence.

But what is a nanoparticle? The very simplest explanation is that a nanoparticle is a very small object. It can consist of any bit of matter—carbon, silver, gold, titanium dioxide, pretty much anything you can imagine—that exists on the scale of nanometers. One nanometer equals one-billionth of a meter. A nanoparticle may range in size from one nanometer to one hundred nanometers, although the upper boundary remains a matter of debate among scientists.

Nanoparticles exist in nature, but they can also be manufactured. One way is top-down: grinding up things that are big until they are really, really small, an approach used in nanolithography for electronics. Or you can make them from the bottom up, following instructions that read like a chemistry textbook: mixing one chemical with another by pyrolysis (heating a material in a partial vacuum), or with electrolysis (running a current through a liquid), or by other means.

But what do they look like? Raju Badireddy, a postdoctoral researcher, is happy to satisfy my curiosity. He greets me with a smile at the door to one of CEINT’s basement labs and guides me around his little domain. For much of his work, Badireddy uses a “dark field” microscope that excludes certain wavelengths of light, reducing the “noise” in the image to provide unparalleled clarity. Sensing my anticipation, he doses a slide with silver nanoparticles similar to those in the mesocosm boxes in the forest, and slips it under the lens.

As I look into the scope, it fairly takes my breath away. There are so many dots of light that I’m reminded of staring up at the Milky Way on a trip across the Tibetan Plateau years ago. Yet the silver dots throb and undulate as if alive. Here and there, giant spheres of dust, as large as Goodyear blimps, porpoise through the nanoparticles. I pull back from the oculars, feeling as if I’ve intruded upon something private. This world is so close—it’s even inside me—yet it looks so other, so mysterious.

Scientists don’t really have a full theoretical foundation to explain reality at this scale. But all agree that one of the most important aspects of nanoparticles is that they are all surface. Consider a conventional chemical process: When one element is reacting with another, it’s really just the surface molecules that are involved in the lock-and-key dance of classical chemistry. The vast majority of the molecules remain interior, and stable. But there are many fewer molecules in a nanoparticle, so most of the molecules are on the outside, thus rendering nanoparticles more reactive.

Myriad surface imperfections cause randomness to dominate the nano world. If you hit a billiard ball with a clean shot at the macro level, you can have a good idea where it will go. But at the nano level, a billiard ball might shoot straight up, or even reverse direction. These bits of matter are hot to trot: ready to react, to bond, and to do so in unpredictable ways.

This makes life at the nano scale more chaotic. For instance, aluminum is used everywhere to make soda cans. But in nanopowder form, aluminum explodes violently when it comes in contact with air. At the macro level, gold is famously nonreactive. At the nano level, gold goes the opposite way, becoming extremely reactive. Bulk carbon is soft. But at the nano level, if you superheat it, the molecules bend into a tube that is very strong and semiconductive. In the nano world, gravity fades to the background, becoming less pronounced, the melting temperature of materials changes, and colors shift. At 25 nanometers, spherical gold nanoparticles are red; at 50 nanometers they are green; and at 100 nanometers they’re orange. Similarly, silver is blue at 40 nanometers and yellow at 100 nanometers.

So chemistry and physics work differently if you’re a nanoparticle. You’re not as small as an atom or a molecule, but you’re also not even as big as a cell, so you’re definitely not of the macro world either. You exist in an undiscovered country somewhere between the molecular and the macroscopic. Here, the laws of the very small (quantum mechanics) merge quirkily with the laws of the very large (classical physics). Some say nanomaterials bring a third dimension to chemistry’s periodic table, because at the nano scale, long-established rules and groupings don’t necessarily hold up.

These peculiarities are the reason that nanoparticles have seeped into so many commercial products. Researchers can take advantage of these different rules, adding nanoparticles to manufactured goods to give them desired qualities.

Scientists first realized that nanomaterials exhibit novel properties in 1985, when researchers at Rice University in Houston fabricated a Buckminsterfullerene, so named because the arrangement of sixty carbon atoms resembles the geodesic domes popularized by architect Richard Buckminster Fuller. These “Buckyballs” resist heat and act as superconductors. Then, in 1991, a researcher at the Japanese technology company NEC discovered the carbon nanotube, which confers great strength without adding weight. Novel nano materials have been reported at a feverish pace ever since.

With these engineered nanoparticles—not even getting into the more complex nanomachines on the horizon—we can deliver drugs to specific cells, “cloak” objects to make them less visible, make solar cells more efficient, and manufacture flexible electronics like e-paper.

In the household realm, nanosilica makes house paints and clothing stain resistant; nanozinc and nano–titanium dioxide make sunscreen, acne lotions, and cleansers transparent and more readily absorbed; and nanosilicon makes computer components and cell phones ever smaller and more powerful. Various proprietary nanoparticles have been mixed into volumizing shampoos, whitening toothpastes, scratch-resistant car paint, fabric softeners, and bricks that resist moss and fungus.

A recent report from an American Chemical Society journal claims that nano–titanium dioxide (a thickener and whitener in larger amounts) is now found in eighty-nine popular food products. These include: M&Ms and Mentos, Dentyne and Trident chewing gums, Nestlé coffee creamers, various flavors of Pop-Tarts, Kool-Aid, and Jell-O pudding, and Betty Crocker cake frostings. According to a market report, in 2010 the world produced 50,000 tons of nano–titanium dioxide; by 2015, it’s expected to grow to more than 200,000 tons.

AT FIRST some in the scientific community didn’t think that the unknown environmental effects of nanotechnology merited CEINT’s research. “The common view was that it was premature,” says CEINT’s director, Mark Wiesner. “My point was that that’s the whole point. But looking at risk is never as sexy as looking at the applications, so it took some time to convince my colleagues.”

Wiesner’s team at CEINT chose to study silver nanoparticles first because they are already commonly added to many consumer products for their germ-killing properties. You can find nanosilver in socks, wound dressings, doorknobs, sheets, cutting boards, baby mugs, plush toys—even condoms. How common is the application of nanoparticles? It varies, but when it comes to socks, for example, hospitals now have to be cautious that the nanosilver in a patient’s footwear doesn’t upset their MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines.

Wiesner and his colleagues spent several months designing the experiments that will help them outline some general ecological principles of the unique nanoverse. He knew they wanted to test the particles in a system, but a full-scale ecosystem would be too big, too unmanageable, so they had to find a way to container-ize nature. They considered all sorts of receptacles: kiddie pools (too flimsy), simple holes in the ground (too dirty, too difficult to harvest for analysis), concrete boxes (crack in winter). Finally, they settled upon wooden boxes lined with nonreactive, industrial rubber: cheap to build, easy to reuse, and convenient to harvest.

They built thirty boxes and a greenhouse to hold them. The large number would make it easier to replicate experiments, and to answer the spectrum of questions being posed by CEINT’s interdisciplinary team. The ecologists were interested in community diversity and how the biomass shifts over time. The biologists wanted to know whether the nanoparticles become concentrated as they move up the food chain. The toxicologists wanted to track where the particles went and how fast they got there. The chemists wanted to know about reactivity.

Whatever the goal of the experiment it houses, each mesocosm features a slanted board upon which a terrestrial ecosystem slowly gives way to an aquatic one. It’s a lot more complicated than a test tube in a lab, but it remains an approximation. The team had hoped to run streams through the mesocosms, but the computing power and monitoring vigilance necessary to track nanoparticles in the streams proved prohibitive.

In 2011, the team dosed the boxes with two kinds of nanosilver made on campus: one coated in PVP, a binder used in many medicines, and the other coated in gum arabic, a binder used in numerous products, including gummi candies and cosmetics. Both coatings help to stabilize the nanosilver. In some boxes, the researchers let the silver leach slowly into the box. In other boxes, they delivered the silver in one big pulse. In some, they introduced the silver into the terrestrial part of the box; in others, they put the silver into the water.

Then the researchers watched and waited.

READING THROUGH DESCRIPTIONS of nanoparticle applications can make a person almost giddy. It all sounds mostly great. And the toxicology maxim “Dose makes the poison” leads many biologists to be skeptical of the dangers nanoparticles might pose. After all, nanoparticles are pretty darn small.

Yet size seems to be a double-edged sword in the nanoverse. Because nanoparticles are so small, they can slip past the body’s various barriers: skin, the blood-brain barrier, the lining of the gut and airways. Once inside, these tiny particles can bind to many things. They seem to build up over time, especially in the brain. Some cause inflammation and cell damage. Preliminary research shows this can harm the organs of lab animals, though the results of some of these studies are a matter of debate.

Some published research has shown that inhaled nanoparticles actually become more toxic as they get smaller. Nano–titanium dioxide, one of the most commonly used nanoparticles (Pop-Tarts, sunblock), has been shown to damage DNA in animals and prematurely corrode metals. Carbon nanotubes seem to penetrate lungs even more deeply than asbestos.

What little we know about the environmental effects of nanoparticles—and it isn’t very much—also raises some red flags. Nanoparticles from consumer products have been found in sewage wastewater, where they can inhibit bacteria that help break down the waste. They’ve been found to accumulate in plants and stunt their growth. Another study has shown that gold nanoparticles become more concentrated as they move up the food chain from plants to herbivores.

“My suspicion, based on the limited amount of work that’s been done, is that nanoparticles are way less toxic than DDT,” says Richard Di Giulio, an environmental toxicologist on the CEINT team. “But what’s scary about nanoparticles is that we’re producing products with new nanomaterials far ahead of our ability to assess them.”

As a society, we’ve been here before—releasing a “miracle technology” before its potential health and environmental ramifications are understood, let alone investigated. Remember how DDT was going to stamp out malaria and typhus and revolutionize agriculture? How asbestos was going to make buildings fireproof? How bisphenol A (BPA) would make plastics clear and nearly shatterproof? How methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) would make gasoline burn cleanly? How polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were going to make electrical networks safer? How genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were going to end hunger?

The CEINT scientists are trying to develop a library that catalogues all the different kinds of engineered nanoparticles. They’re designing methods for assessing potential hazards, devising ways to evaluate the impact nanoparticles have on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and creating protocols that will help shape environmental policy decisions about nanoparticles.

Wiesner says the boxes in the forest provide “ground truth” for experiments in the lab. Sometimes, he says, environmental research leads to generalizations that become so abstracted that they have no relationship to reality. The example he likes to give is Freon: if you were to study the toxicology of Freon in the traditional way, you’d never get to the ozone hole. “Nature changes things,” Wiesner says. “So we need to be able to understand those transformation processes, and we need to understand them in complex systems.”

The first large set of CEINT experiments ended about a year ago, and the team spent most of last year figuring out where the nanoparticles went, what they did, and how they added up. They superimposed a grid on each box, then harvested the plants and animals section by section. They clipped the grasses, sorted them by type, and ground them up. They took bore samples of the soil, the water, and the rocks. They anesthetized and flash froze the vertebrates. Then they started measuring the nanoparticle concentrations in the plants, the animals, and core-sample slices.

But consider the magnitude of the scientific problems that face the scientists at CEINT, or anyone else trying to answer a multitude of questions as nanotech applications gallop into the market and man-made nanoparticles begin to litter our world. Just try tracking something a billion times smaller than a meter in even a modestly sized ecosystem, say, a small wetland or a lake. Do carbon nanotubes degrade? And if not, then what? And how do you tell the nanotubes from all the other carbon in your average ecosystem? Even if we did regulate nanoparticles, how would we detect them? There’s no “nanoprobe” that could find them today, and given the challenges of developing such a thing, the team at CEINT considers it unlikely that there will be one any time soon. Thus, gathering evidence of nanoparticles’ effects—whether positive or negative—turns out to be a titanic task. Simply finding them in the experiment samples seems about as complicated as finding that needle in a haystack the size of the Grand Canyon.

LEE FERGUSON, a chemistry professor who directs the nanoparticle analysis, meets me in the basement of the CEINT building and leads me on a tour of all the hulking, pricey instruments the researchers use. Despite the cutting-edge aura of this machinery, none of it is fully up to the task of locating and analyzing the proverbial nanoneedle.

“With nanoparticles, we’re playing catch-up as a scientific community—not only to ask the right questions, but to have the right tools to investigate them,” Ferguson says as he pushes through a door into the first lab. “We were well prepared to answer questions about PCBs—we’d spent half a century refining the chemistry and the instruments that were used to analyze the molecules in those chemicals. But simply measuring nanoparticles is a challenge. It’s one thing if they’re concentrated, but if you’re looking for nanoparticles in soil, for instance, you just can’t find them.”

He spends the next hour showing me how the CEINT team has back-engineered methods to detect and characterize nanoparticles. The fluorometer aims three lasers at carbon nanotubes. Another instrument uses ultrasonic waves to flush out its tiny quarry. Across campus, huge electron microscopes train electron beams on the nanoparticle samples, projecting their images onto a charge-coupled device camera, like the ones used on the Hubble Telescope, and atomic force microscopes form images of them by running a probe over samples like a hypersensitive, high-tech record player.

As the team’s methods continue to advance, their experiments have resulted in some surprising data. “After we dosed the water, we took some of it to the lab and exposed fish to it,” says Wiesner’s research assistant, Benjamin Espinasse. “Some of the particles turned out to be more toxic in the lab. And the reverse also happened: some things didn’t appear to be toxic in the lab, but they were more toxic in the boxes. It seems that the organic matter in the mesocosms changed the coatings of the particles, making them more toxic or less toxic,” Espinasse continues. “We could never have imagined that.”

While CEINT has only published the results of the preliminary mesocosm experiments, the team has been able to make a few conclusions: When the nanoparticles come in a burst, they tend to stay in the soil. But if they bleed into the system slowly, they filter into the water column. Regardless, nanoparticles seem to have a tendency to stick around—that was also the case with DDT.

Meanwhile, CEINT has begun a new set of experiments in the boxes: testing nanoparticles that have been combined with various other substances.

“The materials we most see now are nanomaterials incorporated into other products: textiles, foams, mattresses, nanotubes in display screens,” Wiesner explains. “How it will get out into the environment will be very different than just the pristine particle.”

And then there are the nanobots to plan for. “As we get closer to even simple nanobots, we will need to understand how to do research on them, too,” Wiesner says. Although they remain a marvel of the future, scientists are working toward nanomachines that may someday be able to replicate red blood cells, clean up toxic spills, repair spinal cord injuries, and create weapon swarms to overwhelm an enemy. Researchers are already working on simple versions of nanobots using the chemical principles of attraction and repulsion to help nanostructures arrange and build themselves in a process akin to the way DNA works: a strand of DNA can only split and rebuild in one particular way, and the desired structure is preserved, no matter how many times the DNA replicates.

As if trying to figure out the effects of simple nanoparticles weren’t enough of a futuristic challenge, concerns surrounding nanobots that replicate like DNA are so theoretical they’re spoken about in narratives resembling science fiction. Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy famously warned that, if released into the environment, self-assembling and self-replicating nanomachines could spread like pollen or bacteria, and be too tough and too small to stop before invading every part of the biosphere, chewing it up and reducing all life on earth to “gray goo.” In nanotech circles, this is called the “gray goo problem,” but no one really knows if this vision is prophetic or simply hysterical.

DOWN THE BASEMENT HALLWAY, postdoc Badireddy motions to me to join him at a computer monitor next to the dark field microscope in his lab. He clicks on a movie he’s made from images he’s captured. It shows silver nanoparticles interacting with bacteria.

At first, the nanoparticles don’t seem to be doing much. Then, all of a sudden, they start to clump to the outside of a bacterium. The nanoparticles build up and build up until the bacterium’s cell membrane bursts. Then the nanoparticle clumps dissolve into small units before clumping back up again and attacking more bacteria. “The whole cycle happens in about thirty minutes,” Badireddy says. “It’s so fast. If you leave the nanoparticles overnight, when you come back in the morning, all the bacteria are ground mush.”

If you’re looking for stink-free athletic socks, maybe this is a good thing. But could that same process someday turn out to have some sort of nasty biological effect? We just don’t know yet.

“The fact that they re-cycle suggests they might persist for a long time,” Badireddy says as we watch the movie a second time. “They might enter the food chain. And then, who knows what will happen?”

Is nanotechnology a panacea or Pandora’s box? Listen to a conversation with Heather Millar.

Heather Millar has covered science, health, and technology for twenty years, contributing to magazines such as Sierra, Smithsonian, and The Atlantic. She lives with her family in San Francisco.


  1. Pandora’s boxes indeed. Scientists are avid for money, prestige, knowledge — but not wisdom. The seventh generation mind is not in them. Just grab the money and the fame and run with it — never look back, or ahead. ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring…’ Sorcerers apprentices run amok in a world too deep for them to understand. Pulling things apart without a clue how to put them together again. And these ‘scientists’ pretend to deserve our respect. I fear their tampering and hold them in contempt for their mindless greed and lack of concern for the harm they do. They are willing tools in the hands of the dark elites who rule our world.

  2. How can we put stuff out into the environment that we know nothing about??Very scary

  3. We do it all the time Jean. Our chemical companies release hundreds of new chemicals into the environment every year with almost none of them (like 99%) being tested for toxicity. And we wonder why cancer is a modern epidemic. When several prominent people including Bill Moyers had their blood tested with sophisticated methods, they were all contaminated thoroughly with know carcinogens like PCB’s and Dioxin, etc, You can bet we are too, all of us.

  4. Heather – great article, thank you. I’d like to learn more about this topic including other researchers work. I am very concerned about nanoparticles weathering into our groundwater. This seems possible given the existence of them in items as common as socks and chewing gum. I enocourage and welcome more articles about this, as well as guidance towards more sources.

  5. The article states that nanoparticles exist in nature. Does the Duke study involve research that examines the origin, and behavior of “natural” nanoparticles? I am not a scientist, but it would seem to be one of the first questions to answer. The article did not provide very much information on the presence of non-manmade nanoparticles. I understood from the article that scientists “discovered” nanoparticles—and consequently found a way to manufacture them. I also wonder if the man-made nanoparticles are physically/chemiclly the same as the “natural” nanoparticles? This is not to suggest that positing questions regarding the wisdom or safety of ubiquitous and high dose levels of industrial application—is not important or necessary, and should occur prior to wholesale distribution on a massive scale and consequent introduction into the environment.

  6. “It Takes A Nano To Beat A Nano” These unimaginable new inventions.. for what reason? I am not sure, except to pump up someone’s payscale, or more job security for scientists, since they are running out of things to research. However, on the counter side of “what do we do about this…” I suggest drinking the negatively charged ‘ION-MIN’ type of Terramin clay, that remove toxins, of any type of contaminating substances, until they figure out what this ‘Pandora’s Box’ is actually capable of. It can’t be very beneficial if it permeates everything it comes in contact with. I will personally keep removing toxic things from my body and staying alkaline seems to be the big key to a lot of imbalances in the ‘bio’ worlds. Even drinking a true apple cider vinegar is an alkaline producing tonic for a lot of these ailments caused by toxin overload.
    “It takes a nano to beat a nano.”

  7. “Curiosity Killed The Cat..” I’m not sure what the cat was getting into… but evidently he didn’t either! It seems a crazy and reckless move to saturate several types of consumer goods, food and lotions used on children, when you don’t even know how they will effect cells in humans or the environment on a long term basis. If this ‘Pandoras Box’ isn’t the ..”Curiosity TO Kill The Cat..” I don’t know what is!

  8. The upside of nanotechnology appears to be narrow and specific. The downside is a grey goo world. Kind of like nuclear those are bad odds.

    Perhaps scientific endeavors are too potentially dangerous to be left to scientists. We need folks with broad wisdom to offer up some parameters.

  9. The major issue here is that there is no track record on what the long term effects will be. and that there is NO tracking at all for how much of it is being purveyed already, and is it toxic, residual and how does it react genetically with seeds and DNA.
    It doesn’t appear that anyone exactly knows what the ‘man made’ nanos are made from? And WHAT COMPANYS are producing them?

    If it being produced by companies, such as Monsanto… I’m REALLY scared! Especially, since I don’t know where to look for the products that it is being used in?! Does anybody have any answers to the companies selling this ‘stuff’ to retailers? This is an accident waiting to happen in several ways.
    And how can this be in consumer products without being listed on the labels??

  10. Just trust the scientists and the corporations. Surely the wouldn’t do anything harmful… What a recipe for disaster!

  11. Nano products, by their nature enter the bodies cells, bypassing the blood brain barrier, the cell walls selective permeability, and entering the nuclear membrane. As it is a dangerous and potent materials science in it’s first days of life, it should be used only when it has proven that it will not harm us, nor the environment we depend on for life and prosperity. This is a technology that I’m certain our enemies will use against us, but I am shocked that corporations and doubtlessly , our own government, are using against us. Food, clothes, cell phones, televisions, furniture, literally anything can be “infected” with nano devices, elements, chemicals, transmitters,(they already use them) ,, and the list goes on. How do we call it democracy when there is zero privacy? Why is it ok for a corporation to profit from poisoning us to death, or even changing our gene expressing for generations to come. These are real things, if you doubt any of it, it’s because you haven’t studied it enough.

  12. As we can see by the comments here.. we have fallen into the trap that we preached about in the ’60s.. “Big Brother” … How did we let him slip by..were we too busy trying to make money? Were we too foolish to keep ‘watch’? How much farther can we last … with so much poison entering our bodies and the tiny bodies of our children… who is to blame… who is there to hold accountable… who do we stop…can we ever recover our soils.. our air… our water.. our lives.. how we take the right and the freedom of not being secretly poisoned. Literally, our U.S.corporations in America have the right to exercise a quiet genocide on an entire nation. Personally, I sense the pharmaceutical companies have bought out AlL the decision makers, at every level, and there is only a single goal to make Americans sicker and brain damaged by chemicals and medication to the point of extinction. There are enough of us, who are ‘awake’ to stand up and SOUND A MIGHTY ALARM to band together and stop consuming any & ALL toxically contaminated foods, any & ALL tainted manufactured clothing, any & ALL toxic cleaners, paints & for God’s SAKE stop buying any & ALL bottled water.. it’s ALL contaminated! We can do this by buying local food, shopping at ‘second hand’ shops, cleaning with vinegar or Bon Ami or Borax, and REFUSE to purchase any & ALL products of the insidious, lethal, ‘purveyors of Death’, scourge of our society, U.S.corporations. We can do this. Stand Up, Fight for Your Rights! It’s a power of millions… STOP BUYING THE POISON & they will disengage…. We can do this. We can take back our country. STOP… BUYING… from them.
    New ‘things’ are T-O-X-I-C.

  13. And if you think you can buy a ‘fancy’ ‘pretty’ labeled sky ‘blue’ bottle of water, called ‘REAL’ Water at WHOLE FOODS MARKET… read the label… it’s Las Vegas tap water, put through ‘2’ stages of reverse osmosis,which is a ‘dead’ water, then they throw in potassium and magnesium to adjust the PH… it’s still… Las Vegas tap water… the BOTTOM of the water chain, and they sell it to us through a ‘health’ ‘food’ store. How cunning of a consumer trick is that?! What part of ‘reverse osmosis’ is ‘dead’ water don’t we understand? We have to STOP buying ‘things’ that are new and can ‘soak’ our home environments with ‘nano particle’ anything. Above all else, I resent that the ‘health’, retail outlets, that we ‘Trust’, ASSIST and BAIT us in the selling of these sordid, corporate trickery, products to us and…. our children, our precious children.. and us, ALL of us, no one is spared.

  14. The comments on this article are almost too ridiculous to even read through. Yes the article is great. Yes there are many concerns, most unknown with the technology, and yes they should be monitored and researched to their fullest extent. That doesn’t mean the scientists are all trying to get rich by killing the public with scary nano particles in socks. The notion that you’ve got half the corporations in the world lining up to use nanotechnology against public health is paranoid and childish. Obviously I am not denying that there are corrupt individuals and corporations out there. Yes, there is a good chance that to some extent, some nano particles will hurt someone or some aspect of the environment at some point in the future. However this will be parallel to them doing a lot of good in the fields of medicine and else where. All good things come with some kind of risk, it doesn’t mean we should return to a hunter gatherer mentality and shun science all together. Stop spreading fear, in hopes of bottlenecking scientific advancement through ridiculous ‘ethics boards & bureaucracies.’ If you want to worry about something, and want something to take a stand against, go worry about mcdonalds, cigarettes, our failing education or a plethora of other serious threats needing your dramatic flair and attention. Now, if you really want to ruin your day go read michael crichton’s ‘prey’ and see if you can get through it without having an emotional breakdown.

  15. Blair — “Stop spreading fear, in hopes of bottlenecking scientific advancement through ridiculous ‘ethics boards & bureaucracies.’

    I guess it is futile to expect ethics from people only intent on making money.

  16. What a ridiculous assumption. Scientific advancement isn’t about making money. It is about changing the world, the further technological evolution of our species, the eventual end of biological suffering from disease and aging and much more. Nanotechnology is quite likely to be applied in a multiple beneficial ways to our society, by good, intelligent people who’s paycheck isn’t their first priority. Of course ethics, protocols, and morals are important to some extent, but they open the gateway to dramatic, emotional nonsense, and intervention from people who have no place making claims about the scientific community, ie the role nonsensical ethics and useless religion played in halting american progress with stem cell research for seven years or so. Research shouldn’t be halted across the board just because people like you read an article online and got scared. I’m not stupid, I’m concerned for my health first and foremost, ‘I eat organic’ as you’d say, and yet I am able to see the forest in the trees. Furthermore comparing the longterm threat of developing nanotechnology with the longterm threat of DDT from the 1940s is not valuable because it doesn’t consider exponential growth in technology and our understanding of it, that simply wasn’t there in the 1940s. It’s like you’re assuming that an iphone 8 would have the same issues, applications, etc as a landline from a few decades ago. My point is, a lot of good will likely come from nanotechnology, and if some negative effects do arise over the next 10, 15, or 20 years, the technology and capability to combat those negative effects would have arisen exponentially right alongside it. Cancer is the perfect example, if it is discovered that nanoparticles in socks cause foot cancer after wearing them for 10 or 15 years, you need not be quite as concerned as you would be today, because the cancer treatments, if not complete cures, available 10 to 15 years from now will be radically different enough to mostly negate this. This article is brilliant, and experiments like what it described are 100% necessary. The comments that followed, using fear and drama and conspiracy and angst as their main points are 100% unnecessary. That’s the point I’m trying to make. If nanotechnology is destined to help mankind in ways we can hardly imagine, who are you to say it should be banned because you’re uncomfortable with a minuscule ingredient in your socks and toothpaste. See this:

    “A recent report from an American Chemical Society journal claims that nano–titanium dioxide (a thickener and whitener in larger amounts) is now found in eighty-nine popular food products. These include: M&Ms; and Mentos, Dentyne and Trident chewing gums, Nestlé coffee creamers, various flavors of Pop-Tarts, Kool-Aid, and Jell-O pudding, and Betty Crocker cake frostings. According to a market report, in 2010 the world produced 50,000 tons of nano–titanium dioxide; by 2015, it’s expected to grow to more than 200,000 tons.”

    IS THAT HORRIBLE? SURE. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT’S WORSE? THAT ALL THAT FOOD IS TRASH THAT PEOPLE SHOULDN’T BE EATING ANYWAY. Crying because those disgusting foods have some nanoparticles? PLEASE, go read about the effects trans fats and sugar and all the other chemicals that you were okay with consuming simply because their impossible to pronounce name didn’t start with ‘nano.’

    (just an fyi, this is not intended to be personal, when I address “you” I am referring to not simply you, but anyone negatively opposing research into this field, and any of the american public who think nano technology is more of a threat than our current awful lifestyle choices.)

  17. Blair — It would sure be nice if all scientists were these pure seekers of truth having only the best long term interests of humankind at heart. I used to imagine that when I was a kid, before I grew up. Now I know that the overwhelming number of scientists are employed by corporations, industries, and the military — who have a sorry a record of destroying the environment, poisoning every one of us and showing not the slightest concern for the long term welfare of our fragile planet. The tiny minority of true selfless and wise scientists stand apart as exceptions. There lot is often to be marginalized and persecuted by the conforming multitude of scientific hacks serving ‘The Man”. Trust my life and the lives of all living things to these reckless tools of unbridled pillagers called corporations? Not today, or tomorrow either. When someone waxes ecstatic about our scientific saviors, I have to wonder who are they working for?

  18. Blair.. sensing your anger and personal ‘angst’ over people questioning and taking a stand against ALL scientists, food Corps, manufacturers of ANY PRODUCTS WITH INGREDIENTS NOT LISTED ON THE LABELS.. which is a federally mandated legal right of the American consumer, if not a global protection for water, humans and animals. And if what has been absorbed by our brains and body nuclear membranes as NANO PARTICLES, as silent trickery, and is building-up in the bio-genetic fabric of this Earth, WHY wouldn’t you be infuriated?!

    And lastly, no one…. no child nor adult deserves to be a scientific experiment by eating food. We are not intended to be generational ‘experiments’ for the scientific community, attempting to make a name for themselves..and sell these patents to corporations for …. big bucks.
    Maybe you should read the comments again, with a clearer view of the victimization of the American, and global consumers… which includes the children.

    It seems you are employed by a corporation, which I won’t mention it’s ‘GMO seeded’ name. Listen to the Erik Hoffner live recordings with a panel of experts, ethics, and implications of nanotechnology ..a few times.. before you take another swing at the ‘concerned citizens’ of this article, please. It’s all about the money..NOT “Life On Planet Earth” anymore… we can change that, maybe…

    IS Mon____to a client of yours..or do they sign your paycheck? Just a question I have for you, Blair.

  19. Darla,

    I had to actually laugh at that. Not even in a rude way, but I honestly and humorously see how anyone would come to the conclusion that I work for monsanto or some other corporate giant. In reality… I am graphic designer for a company that sells average clothes for 18 year olds. I have no agenda, other than trying to combat anti-science fear propaganda just because I take personal issue with it. I care very much about the health of humanity and earth, I eat organic, I love animals, etc etc… I haven’t had a chance to listen to the live talk yet, but I will. I’m just an advocate for modern medicine and technology, I know there are risks with new technologies but the rewards (I mean look around you) are far greater.

    You are completely correct in stating that ‘taking a stand’ is within the rights of the american consumer, but I’d also be correct in stating that the average american isn’t informed enough about the stands they take. Furthermore they latch on to fear, WAY BEFORE they latch on to anything else. Look at the dramatic statements you use “silent trickery, victimization” etc. YES, THOSE ARE REAL THINGS…. but on the brink of medical breakthroughs involving nanotechnology, that’s really all you want to think/talk about? Do you really live in fear that by this time next year you’ll wake up dying from nano particles that were forced into your body by evil corporations? Here is one out of the ‘hundreds’ I’ve seen on positive uses for this kind of technology:

    Does that mean it’s okay for nano particles to be put in your food unknowingly? No, but if you really care about eating organic and healthy than you aren’t eating ie. pop tarts anyway. If you care so much about the health of our citizens you should use your time campaigning against cigarettes or… poptarts, etc and all of the other companies we take for granted that carry far more harmful ingredients than ‘nanoparticles.’

    Unfortunately some of this fear, is very much NOT YOUR FAULT. You’ve been terrorized and brainwashed by the greed and mistakes of companies like Monsanto. What monsanto did was horrible, the fact the FDA let it happen, is horrible. HOWEVER, YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACTUAL “GMO” and YOUR IDEA OF “GMO.” What I mean is, “GMO” in the true sense of the word, is not harmful. Genetically modifying something doesn’t mean it will automatically kill you. Unfortunately Monsanto used that technology to put poison in food, and in all irony the fact that it is poisoning people is actually testament that the technology works! It was just used in a corrupt fashion! You shouldn’t be campaigning against genetic modification, you should be campaigning against monsanto. Campaigning against GMO as a whole, is like campaigning against all fireworks because one kid put a firework in a mail box and blew someones hand off. Your fear is about to have you start doing the same thing with nanotechnology.

    Lastly I want to be really clear: I have no issue with people questioning scientists, or corporations or any other entity. I’M ACTUALLY IN FAVOR OF QUESTIONING. QUESTIONING, is exactly what this article was doing, which is great. The comments on the article, were not questioning, they were protesting out of blind fear, caused by a bias that existed before the article was even read. You fear nanoparticles because you have a bias against anything you deem “unnatural”, you see one article rightfully questioning risks with the technology and instead of taking the logical stance, you declare war against the entire scientific community on behalf of your own misguided fear. Look at the world around you, Medical science and technology has done more for the world than anything else, it will always be that way, and it will just continue to get better. You’ve already lost the fight against nanotechnology, it’s here, and it’s presence will grow exponentially. You need to reevaluate what battles you choose and what you think your enemies are. We both want the same thing, happiness and health for mankind, I’m just willing to admit science is the primary tool for logistically achieving that on a worldwide level.

    And in a whim of complete hypocrisy I’ll tell you I love X files and “TRUST NO ONE.”


  20. Blair — If you don’t work for Monsanto yet, you should send them your resume. They are going to love your stuff. I bet you could get a substantial raise over pushing garments…

  21. You guys are funny, but it’s also sad because that means you guys clearly are missing my point :(

    I hate monsanto, because their products hurt people, but also because they’ve so badly tarnished the the scientific community (because of wrongful blame) and the idea of genetic modification.

    I am curious, what do you do for a living? That’s not a loaded question, I am really just curious if it is something related this this, or if this is more of a personal interest.

  22. Blair — We may crack a joke now and then, but you are sharing with a group of seriously concerned people who are fed up with corporations using scientists to pollute and destroy our world, play with our genetic heritage, and laugh all the way to the bank about how they put it over on us that they are these caring thoughtful people. You still seem to nourish a childish unquestioning faith that SCIENCE will lead us into a paradise on Earth. Wake up, grow up and look at the mess we have created with our knowledge and power. Quit parroting Corporate PR and learn the realities behind their BS.

  23. Right because science causes all the worlds problems. Meanwhile religious and cultural nonsense is still destroying the middle east. Disease is ravaging half the world. Americans are getting fat and still some how getting laid by the time they get out of their oversized cars to their stupid sports game which they can’t stay at too late because they’ve got to wake up in the morning and make it to church to pray away their problems before they spend the rest of the day reading magazines about kim kardashian and kaynes pregnancy. Yet you think “science” a term you clearly don’t understand, is the underlying cause of the destruction of our world? What a stupid notion that you are unable to separate science, from the american culture of corporate greed. The science I am talking about is being done at places like harvard and MIT, and while you’re b**ching about how scared you are that nanoparticles are the next mercury, destined to kill all of us, I have friends who are literally cutting apart human DNA, to put it back together and make it resistant to aids, because UNLIKE SCIENCE, HIV is a real problem. One of millions of problems that scientists, (and really only scientists,) are trying to fix. You are the one that is childish, you’re fear and ignorance controls you, JUST LIKE A CHILD. AND, JUST LIKE A CHILD, you’re scared of a ‘the monster under the bed.’ I never said all corporations or individuals use ‘science’ for the benefit of mankind, but true science, unlike any other cultural or political aspect of our society sits outside of fear and outside of bias and is the only thing responsible for building a better world. You need to separate your hatred of corporations from your fear of things you don’t understand.

    What confuses me, is why you think I’m speaking from such a pro-corporate perspective. I already made it clear, that I hate monsanto, and I’m not a fan of the other companies putting nanoparticles in their food either. However, I am in favor of research into nanotechnology as a whole because it is very promising for improving our world in a lot of ways, as are most other forms of medical science. The comments on this article were broadly spreading fear propaganda instead of logically talking about the risks and precautions necessary when developing a new technology. Just like vaccines, and genetic modification, and all the other things you are ignorantly terrified of, the positive applications of nanotechnology will outweigh the negative ones, end of story.

  24. I’m not sure if you’d be willing to read anything that wasn’t a sequel to silent spring, but I suggest you start reading some new things.

    There’s too pretty straight forward books that might help you grasp the new world we live in. Albeit the second one, could definitely be considered terrifying! I wouldn’t blame you for that.

    Science is a part of our reality. You should spend less time trying to get rid of and more time trying to make sure it’s used by the right people for the right reasons. Which obviously, it already is primarily used by the right people for the right reasons, because otherwise we would have destroyed ourselves by now, but in fact we are prospering.

  25. “but in fact we are prospering.” We who? Our world is in dire straits and in danger of going under. The gap between your perspective and mine in that regard is immense. Prospering?? We teeter on the edge of an abyss…

  26. That is a very depressing outlook. Our differences in opinions aside, I really urge you read abundance. I am sure you won’t agree with everything, but I think it would at least help you realize things arent as bad as you think.

    human health, education, lifespan, state of living, etc have been and still are improving all over the world. Do you live in the US? What city? I am from boston, as far as I know things are doing ok here…

    I could ask you the same thing, what are the dire straits you speak of?

  27. Unfortunately a depressing outlook may be the right one… If we continue to overlook issues such as overpopulation it may become more of a major problem by the time it’s too late to think of solutions.

  28. Again.. it’s pretty much…LATE… if they have been putting this nano particle ‘stuff’ in everything for 10= years… 50,000 TONS a year. However, the negatively charged caly I was speaking of is a NATURAL, NEGATIVELY charged nano particle.. “Powered By Nature”, 30 to 50 Billion years in the making. So that IS the solution.. been drinking it for a year.. pain free in the first week I started taking it. My Parakeet grew new tail feathers, my hamster had a better coat, and it is priceless…. as a re-mineralizing as well as Toxin removing… NANO PARTICLE removing remedy.. seriously the solution is getting them REMOVED from your nuclear membranes…. NOW.

  29. Oops… ‘caly’… is clay… but you knew that. “It Takes A Nano To Beat A Nano.” If you are interested in knowing more about this beneficial..nano.. made only by Nature.. they used it on the Astronauts to CURE their extreme osteoporosis.. and their overload of plastic and other contaminants in the 60’s… They’re no test car ‘dummies’. Costs 12 cents a day. “Stay Healthy… Eat More Dirt”! Mail me:

  30. I had no idea that so many things had nanoparticles in them. Even pop tarts?! And pop tarts have the same nanoparticle that sunblock does?
    Maybe that’s why I’ve never cared for pop tarts.
    from the article:
    “Nano–titanium dioxide, one of the most commonly used nanoparticles (Pop-Tarts, sunblock), has been shown to damage DNA in animals and prematurely corrode metals.”
    Interesting stuff!

  31. {Hi, my comments are in two parts below since I had more to say than I realized!)

    I’m a non-scientist who lives and works in a very science-oriented place (I have a support role at a science publisher in the Boston area) and I’m also a writer (poetry and non-fiction), fascinated by how people perceive and communicate on science and nature-related topics. I thought the essay on nanoparticles was excellent because it focused on sorting out what is and isn’t known about the manufactured types of nanotech, and how there is essentially a huge catch-up game going on to try to grasp what happens when these nanoparticles breakdown and interact with the natural environment. It wasn’t very consoling to hear the podcast speakers mention that protocols should be designed in that wonderfully vague time of ‘soon’ and that this should be something that guides the future implementation of other technology coming down the pike. A group at UMass Lowell has been working on ‘green chemistry’ principles that even the EPA has a website about- but that’s a different field; the language of the precautionary principle seems like it is still at first base when it comes to the world of nano-tech.
    And I think that’s what inspires some of the anger (rage really) and anxiety and black-and-white thinking that can turn “science” into a ‘good guys vs. bad guys’ conversation that doesn’t seem to hit its target (or any useful target). But then, on the flip side, the one person in this comment-thread who speaks passionately in defense of the scientific process, also relies on some ‘all or nothing’ thinking with a line like “if some negative effects do arise over the next 10, 15, or 20 years, the technology and capability to combat those negative effects would have arisen exponentially right alongside it.“ An assumption like that seems like fairy-tale thinking. In fact, that seems like part of why there is such a huge problem assessing nano-tech materials now- because of assumptions that seem built in to how science has traditionally been applied in the past.

  32. Part 2:

    I think broad statements about whether science creates “abundance” or whether it leads to an “abyss” are really much more about the speaker’s values and point-of-view than they are about science. In fact, to me ‘science’ is the process of inquiry and the many applications of it in the world are technology- the two aren’t the same. Technology is typically a human-centric activity and I think most Orion readers have an eco-centric perspective (and appreciate seeing that in the comments section) since it is not part of the mainstream conversation about technology in this country.
    Above Blair linked to a book on synthetic biology that this line in its publishers’ description on Amazon: “Full-blown genomic engineering will make possible incredible feats, from resurrecting woolly mammoths and other extinct organisms to creating mirror life forms with a molecular structure the opposite of our own. These technologies—far from the out-of-control nightmare depicted in science fiction—have the power to improve human and animal health, increase our intelligence, enhance our memory, and even extend our life span.” It’s a one-note way of thinking (‘this will do wonders for us!’) which has the sounds of disconnect with larger ecological realities- woolly mammoths lived in a place and time they were evolved for, as human biology also has developed through living.

  33. Andrea, Always look on the bright side of ,, poisoning of humans?

    It doesn’t matter to industry, government, nor most anyone else involved in using nano products what happens to them during and after they are used for a particular purpose. Please look at the history, and the present day status of government and industry failure to toxicity test a couple hundred thousand chemicals (counting metabolites?) that are already in your house, car, food, water, air, and your body as well as everyone’s body. The USEPA is intentionally gutted of the funds and will, to do the testing as was mandated by law in 1976. As a result, industry uses whatever chemicals they want, whenever they want, and use them everywhere they please. USEPA has the burden to find ways to show when a chemical is deadly, but even when they have the research to back them up, the lobbyists from the chemical company stop them. Atrazine is a good example, our oft used weed killer, it was banned in some other countries based on research done in the U.S. But not banned here?! Look at farming (soil mining) they allow terrible chemicals to run off their fields, some of them mimic estrogen. Long stretches of the Potomac River have male fish with egg tissue growing in their testes. America’s kids reach puberty when they’re 12 and younger, because of BPA, and probably a hundred other poisons that affect hormone activity and levels. So we don’t need to look on the bright side, nor the dim side, we only need to look at the reality of chemical un-safety during the entire period of industrialization in the U.S. under government that is corporate owned and operated, commanded by the richest of men with the poorest of character. The extra estrogen levels from these horrible chemicals are likely a driver for many human cancers, genital birth defects, drop in male fertility, and much more. Industry needs to respond to a whip that makes them give a damn about human life. Something corporations consistently fail to do.

  34. Hmm… interesting comments. I’m not interested in looking on “the bright side”- to me, an ecological vision is not about ‘sides’ to an issue.

    I’m thinking your comments are in reference to my mention of green chemistry- rest assured, I am under no illusion that companies are actually following any green guidelines and I’m familiar with the levels of changes that have been found in estrogen (and other ongoing horror-shows).
    The reason we have the data you mention is because of the scientific research that is done (always after the fact) and that is then written about by people like Sandra Steingraber and, in this case, Heather Millar.
    One of the points tucked between the lines of my comments is that without good (ie, ecologically coherent) science and research, we can not get clear about what scientific applications are doing that are harmful. Several earlier comments in this thread were notedly denigrating science itself and that seemed wasteful to me. Just as Blair’s magical thinking about technology seems to miss its own biases.

    Anyway, if your comments were meant as a response to everything I wrote then they seem as purposeful as someone spraying silver-nanoparticles all over staircases in Tokyo to control bacteria! (So I hope my first take is right, that you were inspired by my mention of green chemistry.)

  35. I definitely have a dramatic bias’ but I wouldn’t say I think science is magical. I know I make some outlandish claims, but for example, I would still stand by what I said about negative effects arising with the use of nano particles over the next 15 years, it is pretty basic logic assumed by our current path of medical trends, certain negative effects could easily be compensated for. For example, I read an article today about artificial ears being 3d printed using rat and cow tissue, and eventually human cartilage tissues. It is expected to start being implanted in patients within three years. If nano particles in shampoo cause ear damage that arises 15 years from now, we can expect that those 3d printed ears will be available, as well as a plethora of other options for regenerative medicine and tissue replacement. IT CERTAINLY IS NOT AN EXCUSE, but it is definitely relevant. And my bias is basically just that I like to have a positive outlook rather than a fear induced hysteria.

  36. A positive bias is fine but nano sized product is weaponized automatically by nature of it’s size and unique properties compared to normal large sized particles. I agree good things can be done with nano tech, but it’s already being used more and more without the wise testing that would be requisite for something that’s highly reactive, deliverable into every cell and nucleus, able to go to every organ in the body, etc.

    Nano acts in new and unknown ways with living systems by virtue of it’s size, regardless of the intent of the company or government that distributes it. Today’s scientists don’t have a clue as to how nano will react with our complex systems nor the unfathomable complexity of the entire biosphere. Nano products without extraordinary testing would seem a certain way to poison any system that lets them in, and all living systems will likely let most of them in. Nano should require cradle to grave trailing and regulations. Maybe we should ask someone who works for a bio weapons lab. I wonder if the Pentagon or other area of government would have comment on the potential for harm by the routine and ubiquitous use of nano sized particles in everything. We could ask them how many elements or chemicals would be considered automatically weaponized once made nano in size.

  37. I can’t believe you just used the word “weaponized” in the opening sentence of your argument as part of the larger conversations going on here. That is the problem. Cradle to grave testing for any kind of technological development with regards to human biology? Are you kidding? And what is that, literally 70+ years? If you actually have the hubris and audacity to think that your limited understanding of nanotechnology will actually be applicable or relevant 70 years from now you need to make major reconsiderations. “Nanoparticles in toothpaste” and “bioweapons” do not belong in the same conversation.

  38. Blair, They’re small enough to react directly with everything in the body, even DNA, RNA, everything else too. How can you imagine then that they aren’t automatically weaponized. You must be aware that science is just opening this arena, and that they don’t have a clue as to what the effects will be on any living thing. How can it possibly be prudent to let market forces, like greed, by the “decider”. Nano will be safe in medicines, and when it’s encased or stable, bound chemically. Nano has vastly different chemistry and physics than what industry and science or even medicine have experience with. I don’t mind if you put it in your ice cream, but will there be a warning label telling me that it’s in mine? How far will it go through the environment before it’s bound, and what trail of damage will it accomplish on the way? You speak of my limited understanding of nano tech, so with your assumed greater knowledge, tell my how it’s so safe and grand.

  39. I didn’t say it was automatically safe and grand. I said that, like most sciences, the benefits will out weigh the negatives. There seems to be a misunderstanding, I still agree with this article and I think it is awful that huge corporations are putting it in food without warning or testing. That is no reason to talk about how bad science is or that we should practically ‘abandon’ the industry of nanotech because of possible risks. I am also not really defending the use of nanoparticles outside of the lab, or medical field. I would much rather shut down kellogs line of poptarts for their horrific nutritional content, than shut down biotech companies because kellogs decided to put some kind of particle in their food. And at the end of the article: “But could that same process someday turn out to have some sort of nasty biological effect? We just don’t know yet.” At the end of the day, the evidence for harm is not exactly paramount. Things like this are what I care about:

    I just don’t really care (that doesn’t mean I like it, obviously) about additives in unhealthy processed foods, or anti sweat particles in my socks. You can say it’s ignorant, but if I am going to be truly bothered by something there are way worse things going on in the world.

  40. Yes, it’s tough to have another monster to battle. They’ll put it however in those pop tarts to make the kids want to eat more of them faster. It shouldn’t be allowed into the food chain. Yes, good things can come from the science of nano, but nobody is looking at the long term consequences. And remember too, the USEPA rules generally do not consider your total load of a pollutant. When they look at a source of pollutant, they treat it as if it were the only source. Sure they plug it into a computer model, a model whose parameters allow smog so thick you can cube it and load it on a truck. FDA won’t be any different, it’s a farcical regulatory body that’s run by the entities it’s supposed to be regulating.

  41. this discussion and related articles re. the use and environmental/safety and health risks of nano-materials is one that is sorely needed and, for the most part, missing or ignored in america and the world today. we must begin to research this subject, especially for the materials presently being manufactured or produced as a byproduct and used or consumed by the public, now and in the near future. thank you for beginning the process cwp

  42. I wish the article (and/or the podcast speakers) would have addressed how these nanoparticles might affect our microbiome (that is, the trillions of tiny organisms constituting our inner and outer ecology that are vital to “our” health), something we are just barely beginning to understand and appreciate:

    When You Swallow A Grenade

    Crucial Colonizers: Western Lifestyle Disturbing Key Bacterial Balance

    I wonder if they’ve even considered the effects/implications, at this point.

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