Posts Tagged ‘Nano’

The Public vs Researchers: Thoughts on Nanomaterial Regulations

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Well it seems that public opinion is once again at odds with that of the scientific community.  What a surprise.

This episode is about the emergence of nanotechnology and how quickly its advances should be thrown to the public.  The public, it seems, would like these new nano-products to become available to them as quickly as possible.  Researchers demand more testing due to the fact that we really don’t know the biological risks associated with nano-sized materials.  Ah yes, the old story of the inventor being forced into releasing his invention before its been properly tested.  There is no way that this could turn into a class 5 zombie attack *cough*iamlegend*cough*

Are we divine protectors?

So is this a case of us mighty scientists having to protect the public from themselves like dogs begging for a piece of chocolate?  If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know my stance on this.


“But Jon, how can this one possibly be our fault?  All we want to do is protect people,” you say?

Well maybe next time when there is an advance in science, we shouldn’t tout it as the answer to all of the problems in the world.  Nanoscience is absolutely important and has shown great advances in fields such as silicon chips and medical testing.  This does not mean it is ok to shout all successes from the rooftops while never informing people about the dangers involved.  It is not fair to ask people to be truely skeptical about these things because most people do not have the education necessary to even be wary of anything that might be small enough to bypass a cell membrane.  It is true that we don’t have definitive evidence to say that these materials are harmful, but it is still our responsibility to make sure that anything that will be in contact with people is safe for them to be in contact with.

An easy rebuttal to my argument will undoubtedly be that it is not the researchers who hyped up nanoscience but the media.  While this begs the question of who hyped it to the media, I would rather go straight to the more important where are all the toxicity studies? I have not come across a single dedicated toxicity study on the effects of nano-materials on human cells, and it’s not for lack of looking.  I’m sure there are some, but the fact that we expect average people to realize the possible negative effects of a new matierial while I (someone who atleast knows where to look for this sort of thing) can’t find anything better than “we are unsure of possible negative effects” is utterly irresponsible.

Please don’t wait for people to start dieing before beginning tests.  We’ve already had enough of that (See: Vioxx, Asbestos)

Corley, E., Scheufele, D., & Hu, Q. (2009). Of risks and regulations: how leading U.S. nanoscientists form policy stances about nanotechnology Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 11 (7), 1573-1585 DOI: 10.1007/s11051-009-9671-5

*A class 5 zombie invasion involves most of mankind turning, while few fight for survival.  Class 4 only involves maybe a city, alla Resident Evil, while classes 1-3 are usually more of  a Zombies Ate my Neighbors situation (smaller infection, zombies easily dispatched with water guns)