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Common sense about Samsung silver nanotechnology

Nanowerk reports that the German branch of Friends of the Earth (BUND) is calling for Samsung to withdraw from the market its washing machine using silver nanoparticles:

…BUND criticized that considerable amounts of silver could enter sewage plants and seriously trouble the biologic purification process of the waste water. In addition, silver nanoparticles were blaimed to have a toxic effect on different kinds of cells.

Samsung tells how it works:

Samsung WM1245A Washing Machine releases over 400 billion silver ions which penetrate deep into fabrics of any kind and create a coat of sterilizing protection for a maximum of 99.99% disinfection and an added antibacterial effect of up to 30 days after washing.

So, is BUND correct in making their demand that the product be withdrawn? Samsung rebuts:

Samsung countered that only an accumulated amount of 0.05 grams of silver are released per machine and year, while the released silver-ions quickly bind to non-nano-sized structures in the water. Therefore, the threat should be minimal. Any toxic effect of nanoparticles has to be considered together with the kind, size and modification of the particles. General predictions on the toxicity of nanoparticles are not possible.

So, Samsung is saying that their silver nanoparticles kill bacteria inside the washing machine, and also kill bacteria for up to 30 days on the clothes themselves — presumably after they have also gone through the dryer — but are harmless in the water coming out of the washer into the wastewater system and will not kill beneficial bacteria downstream.

It is possible that this is true. However, it makes absolutely no sense for Samsung to assume that people outside the company, who have seen no technical data to back up this claim, will automatically believe their statement. How is it possible that a company the size of Samsung, which sells products in European countries with very high environmental standards and concerns, could make this error?

To dig deeper, see David Berube’s Nanohype blog post on the topic. If Samsung has data to prove their claim, as they say they do, they should release it. Otherwise, these protests will keep happening, and rightly so.

This issue is a bit discouraging. If we have this kind of trouble over such a simple matter, how will we deal with the more complex challenges posed by nanodevices and advanced molecular nanosystems? —Christine

14 Responses to “Common sense about Samsung silver nanotechnology”

  1. ERabani Says:

    Two other issues pertain to the question of whether this is such a good idea:

    Overbroad use promotes the selection of resistance–meaning that the antimicrobial agent in question becomes less effective over time. We’ve seen this several times and there presently aren’t any antibiotics for which there isn’t resistance floating around. Do we really need to repeat this mistake?

    Most bacteria are just fine for us where they are. Kill them and open up ecological space for other microbes which may well be nastier.

    Of course it’s alot easier to sell things to the technoenamoured segment of the buying public that doesn’t think much about these things.

  2. Christine Peterson Says:

    An excellent point, ERabani.

    By the way, if you are Ely Rabani, Foresight needs your current email address.

    –Christine

  3. Harry Says:

    I believe this anti bacterial nano-Silver wave is a total over kill.

    It is disappointing that a technology which has the potential to reduce chemical consumption-
    a technology that can make goods more durable while reducing manufacturing
    impact on the environment is misused in such a way.
    Instead of reducing the use of chemicals we start to cover really every surface with some sort of nano-coating.

    I am absolutely for Nanotechnology but it should be used with more common sense.

  4. Toren Says:

    Silver is a bactericidal, not an antibacterial or an antibiotic. Cockroaches don’t develop resistance to being hit with a hammer.

  5. Samsung and Nanosilver in a washing machine « Nano, Bio, Info, Cogno, Synthetic bio, NBICS Says:

    [...] Nanowerk reports that the German branch of Friends of the Earth (BUND) is calling for Samsung to withdraw from the market its washing machine using silver nanoparticles: Link to source [...]

  6. The Appliance Weblog » Auto Clinic Says:

    [...] Common sense about Samsung silver nanotechnologyNanodot - Nov 21, 2006… is saying that their silver nanoparticles kill bacteria inside the washing machine, and also … but are harmless in the water coming out of the washer into the … appliances appliance kitchen [...]

  7. Harry Says:

    Silver can destroy even antibiotic resistant bacteria (Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) and from my point of view this is antibaterial. It seems it can do a few things much better than antibiotics.
    It is also interesting that the bacteria are not able to develop resistance like they do with antibiotics.

    (Unless you hit them with a silver spoon) Silver will not kill the cockroaches but it should make them hygenic clean – at least for a while.

    Anyway, the discussion was more about if you like having free floating silver-nanoparticles going down the drain. If they are not able to do any harm to the water cleaning bacteria, fine.

  8. The Appliance Weblog » South Georgia man brings Yankee-born wife the gift of snow Says:

    [...] Nanodot - Nov 21, 2006… is saying that their silver nanoparticles kill bacteria inside the washing machine, and also … but are harmless in the water coming out of the washer into the … Read more.. [...]

  9. Anonymous Says:

    what impact will this have on the large and growing Silver Ion antimicrobial industry.

  10. The Appliance Weblog » Common sense about Samsung silver nanotechnology Says:

    [...] Nanodot - Nov 21, 2006… is saying that their silver nanoparticles kill bacteria inside the washing machine, and also … but are harmless in the water coming out of the washer into the … Read more.. [...]

  11. BViggiano Says:

    Is this technology spreading without EPA approval or does it even need it until it is proven harmful to the enviroment.

    Not only does Samsung use silver nano technology but other companies have started to employ it in the wash as stated in the following Ecoquest for Laundry Pure. http://www.ecoquestintl.com/customers/product_guide/water/LaundryPure/LaundryPure_home.asp

    “Kill germs without bleach”
    “LaundryPure adds silver nano-technology to wash water, killing 99.99% of bacteria in independent NSF testing. A proven germ fighter, silver has been used for centuries to kill bacteria and fungi.”

  12. Richer Laporte Says:

    LaundryPure has been approved by the EPA (No. 065975-TN-001). It does wonders for the laundry and those who try it are really thrilled by the results.

  13. Free Encyclopedia » Blog Archive » Silver Nano Says:

    [...] Concerns have been raised over the use and [[marketing]] of washing mashines using the silver nano technology. The German branch of Friends of the Earth, [[Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland]] (BUND) has warned consumers not to buy a new type of washing machine that uses silver nanoparticles. BUND criticized that considerable amounts of silver could enter [[sewage plant]]s and seriously trouble the biologic purification process of the [[waste water]]. In addition, silver nanoparticles were blaimed to have a toxic effect on different kinds of cells.<ref>[http://www.nanowerk.com/news/newsid=1037.php Concerns about nanotechnology washing machine]</ref>Samsung countered that only an accumulated amount of 0.05 grams of silver are released per machine and year, while the released silver-ions quickly bind to non-nano-sized structures in the water.<ref>[http://www.foresight.org/nanodot/?p=2368 Common sense about Samsung silver nanotechnology]</ref> [...]

  14. Says:

    Personally, I think concerns surrounding the risks to the enviroment are over blown.

    I work in the photographic industry, and for the last 100 or so years up until the 1980′s; nearly all

    commercial photographic waste (which contains silver deposits) was simply poured down the sink.

    If there is was a risk, it would surely have shown up by now..

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