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Nanotech consumer products inventory launched

The Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies has launched a product database currently listing over 200 consumer products identified by their manufacturers as using nanotechnnology. A 10-page initial analysis is available (1.1 MB pdf).

David Forman commented in Small Times Direct, the email service from Small Times magazine: “On the safety front, note that the Wilson Center released a nano product list today. The list could serve their purposes of encouraging discussion about safety and environmental impacts. But at the same time, I can’t help but think this effort will simultaneously muddy the waters. The benefits and risks are quite different for nanoscale processing than they are for nanomaterials. Will the lay audience make the distinction? And what’s a consumer product anyway? If you’re going to list the iMac because its CPU is made using a 65 nanometer process — and you’re going to include Intel’s and AMD’s CPUs because they are also made using sub-100 nanometer processes — then don’t you have to include every single PC or laptop on the market that uses one of these chips? We also have to consider how the “nano” label is used. The Wilson Center says that every product in the list is ‘manufacturer-identified.’ Trouble with that is that there are plenty of companies that will call something ‘nano’ to benefit from the buzz. We’ve been weeding them out of our pages for years. In short, this list is interesting, but as Oregon’s Safer Nano 2006 conference on Monday and Tuesday shows, the discussion it’s intended to promote is already well under way.”

The Washington Post commented: “Perhaps most surprising, the list contains several products meant to be eaten — a step up from the kind of exposure that has drawn attention to date, namely nanoparticle-laden cosmetics and sunscreens that some fear could cause harm if absorbed through the skin.”

My comments: First, as the Wilson Center points out, the current list is not comprehensive. If you use the 1-100 nm definition for nanotech — as many or even most do in business — this list would include a huge variety of products made using molecules/particles/features in this size range. Second, given this fact, does it make sense to group such products together? [This concern may lessen as the database grows.] Third, one wonders whether those in charge of marketing these products are now glad or sorry to have used the nano label. And finally, the chocolate chewing gum contains nanoscale crystals, but of what? —Christine

3 Responses to “Nanotech consumer products inventory launched”

  1. Robert Bradbury Says:

    Lets see. Every drug now on the market and a significant majority of *all* molecules in the foods that we consume are “nanoscale”. Nanoscale would include particles in the smoke from exhausts, home fireplaces, forest fires, urban building & home fires, certainly the dust cloud produced from the 911 attacks, fragrances & pollen from most perfumes and flowers and the fine grits (typically various metal oxides) used in many polishing processes (in lapidary polishing, mirror polishing, gem polishing, etc.). I’ve noticed a few patents involving particles in the 5-40nm range in just 5 minutes of googling including one for dental fillers. And then of course “carbon black” aka “soot” is an easily produced nanoscale material. Quick — lets outlaw matches so people cannot manufacture such a deadly substance.


  2. EH&S Student Says:

    True–but there is a nanoparticle spectrum, with “Beneficial/Harmless” on one end and “Toxic–DANGER!!!!” on the other. There are naturally-occurring or “incidental” nanoparticles, like in smoke (as you mentioned). Sea spray, diesel exhaust, even cooking can produce nanoparticles. Some, like the ones in diesel exhaust, are already acknowledged as a HEALTH THREAT. We should be very cautious with these newly-engineered nanomaterials and see where on the spectrum they fall…

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