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Call for moratorium on commercial nanomaterials

from the ban-it-first-ask-questions-later dept.
In a lengthy position paper posted on their web site No Small Matter! Nanotech Particles Penetrate Living Cells and Accumulate in Animal Organs ETC Group, which describes itself as "dedicated to the conservation and sustainable advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights," calls for "an immediate moratorium on commercial production of new nanomaterials [and for launching] a transparent global process for evaluating the socio-economic, health and environmental implications of the technology." ETC Group (the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration) cites an EPA meeting (see Nanodot post of March 15, 2002) where it was claimed that "nanoparticles are showing up in the livers of research animals, can seep into living cells, and perhaps piggyback on bacteria to enter the food chain," and notes that there is no regulatory body "dedicated to overseeing this potent and powerfully invasive new technology." After describing the extent of government and commercial investment in nanotechnology, they conclude that "Industry will fight hard to make sure that health and environmental concerns do not derail the progress of nanotech, as has happened with biotech." They describe the lack of knowledge about the long term effects of various nanoparticles on the environment and on human health, and then call for "Heads of State attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (Aug. 26-Sept. 4, 2002)" to declare the moratorium.

4 Responses to “Call for moratorium on commercial nanomaterials”

  1. ispdrudge Says:

    Nanotubes, particles unnatural?

    Etcgroup seems committed beyond reason to the Precautionary Principle. I thought carbon nanotubes and fullerenes were normal, but small, components of soot, and that production methods merely increased the yield. Smoke and soot have been around for a long time, and in enormous quantities, so I would have thought organisms have mechanisms for dealing with nanocarbon allotropes. I suppose the same could be said of the oxide nanoparticles, also. Doesn't mechanical abrasion of any fine powder generate a small portion of nanoscale particles? Etc also wants us to worry about nanoscale clay particles, though they admit they occur naturally. Conceivably, nanoparticles of entirely synthetic materials like gallium arsenide could have unpredictable effects, but from what I've read, they will be used in extremely small quantities, also. Etc is really stretching things when they compare nanotubes and asbestos fibers. As if all the orders of magnitude in size won't make any difference! It also seems to me that any chemical process that disposes of microscale particles will be much more effective with nanoscale particles, because of the relative surface area increase. I bet it's fun to watch nature dispose of a pile of pure iron nanoparticles. Can any of you experts show me what's wrong with my presumptions? I'm sure you'll have your lunch on Etcgroup's warnings.

  2. MarkusQ Says:

    Can you say "flakes"?

    This is screwy beyond belief. I know it's fashonable to treat neo-ludites with the same respect we give normal people, but I find it hard to believe that these kooks are both serious and acting in good faith. Their position makes about as much sense as calling for a moratorium on asteroid impacts (after all, look what happened to the dinosaurs!) Discounting stars, black holes, and dark matter something like 80% the universe (by weight) fits their definition of "nano-particles" (atoms and atom clusters [molecules] in the range of a nanometer [nm], one billionth of a meter), including, for example, the air, water, etc. They can't be seriously expecting a ban on air. It's a joke, right? At first glance, their rant reminded me of the "ban dihydrogen oxide" movement.

    But while that was technically correct, if misleading to people who aren't paying attention, this includes nonsensical claims such as "other materials are atomically-modified elements that do not exist in nature" and refers to "some new forms of carbon" and so on with such abandon that I have to conculde that they are seriously and intentionally trying to scare people with giberish.

    So I guess the real question is, why is the link even posted here?

    – MarkusQ

  3. RobertBradbury Says:

    Re:Can you say "flakes"?

    Why? To remind us that there are people out there who present claims that are "scientific" to the people who are not educated with respect to the science. That may cause significant harm to public support for progress in an area. A good example might be Michio Kaku's objections to plutonium powered spacecraft launches. I personally think his opinions are way off base, but if they weren't I would be glad he was raising consciousness with regard to possible problems. We know from history, e.g. DDT, that the red flag wavers are not always incorrect.

  4. younes Says:

    can you send me the information of nanomaterials thankyou

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