come along and ride on a fantastic voyage. no, really, you might not have much of a choice
Alas, both DuPont and ED said it would be years until the industry could get Raquel Welch to apply nanotech to things.
DuPont and Environmental Defense, one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, plan to release jointly developed guidelines today for evaluating the safety and environmental risks of nanotechnology products.
The guidelines are the most extensive effort yet to address a vexing issue surrounding the rapidly expanding field of nanotechnology: the lack of information about whether materials in such minute sizes can pose novel or unexpected hazards.
Nanotechnology usually refers to materials with at least one dimension measured at 100 nanometers or less (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter), a scale so small that the behavior of individual molecules begins to affect how the material performs. While particles of soot and other materials occur naturally on a nanoscale, businesses are now exploiting a recent explosion in the number of tools available to engineer nanoscale products.
In doing so, they have shown that familiar materials sometimes have astonishing strength, flexibility, reactivity or other useful characteristics when manipulated in tiny dimensions. Hundreds of products, including stain-resistant clothing and textiles, advanced microchips and clear sunscreens already incorporate such technology.
Technology skeptics have contended that some innovations are being deployed with too little attention to potential negative consequences. Scattered laboratory research programs have suggested that nanoscale particles can lodge in the brain, lungs and other organs, although the effects of that are not known. Tests also show that some may be toxic to plants and other organisms.
Products are being invented much faster than toxicologists can fully test and describe all of their potential effects. “For example, there’s virtually no information on nanocomposites in the literature,” said David B. Warheit, the leader of DuPont’s basic research on nanotechnology toxicology, referring to products where nanoscale materials are embedded in plastics and other polymers to improve their performance.
A fine thing, the maker of a thing promising not to violate standards and guidelines it made up to use that thing it makes. Say the AFL-CIO/Greenpeace/Corporate Watch/Friends of the Earth/United Steelworkers, among others:
We reject outright the proposed voluntary framework as fundamentally flawed. We strongly object to any process in which broad public participation in government oversight of nanotech policy is usurped by industry and its allies. We made the decision not to engage in this process out of well-grounded concerns that our participation - even our skeptical participation - would be used to legitimize the proposed framework as a starting point or ending point for discussing nanotechnology policy, oversight and risk analysis. The history of other voluntary regulation proposals is bleak; voluntary regulations have often been used to delay or weaken rigorous regulation and should be seen as a tactic to delay needed regulation and forestall public involvement.
Nanotechnology's rapid commercialization requires focused environmental, health and safety research, meaningful and open discussion of broader societal impacts, and urgent oversight action. Unfortunately, the DuPont-ED proposal is, at best, a public relations campaign that detracts from urgent worldwide oversight priorities for nanotechnology; at worst, the initiative could result in highly reckless policy and a precedent of abdicating policy decisions to industry by those entrusted with protecting our people, communities, and land. We strongly urge all who have an interest in nanotechnology's future to reject this proposed framework.
But-but-but what about Environmental Defense? Here's the rap on environmental defense.