Tag Archive | "Nanotechnology"

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Nanoparticles: Would You Rather Have Smooth Skin or Oxygen?

Posted on 03 November 2015 by Jerry

Opportunities draw a crowd. More researchers are attracted to upside opportunity than testing for safety. Unfortunately, products are rushed to market for product advantage. Once again products are out before safety is assured. Such is the case with nanoparticles.

Multiple developments have now been proven to be harmful, one taking years to withdraw from the market even though substitutes are available. Another threatens the production of oxygen on earth. One of which is a direct problem to its users. Another is a less direct problem but has more serious and long-term implications.

It has been known for sometime that plastic particles in the oceans are collecting inside the bodies of creatures of the sea that ingest them and are consequently harmed by them. It has now been discovered that “Tiny particles used in sunscreens and other consumer products may harm marine creatures by disabling the defense mechanisms that protect their embryos.” So says a May 14, 2015 article published by the National Geographic.

This unique problem is that many of the facial crèmes and body scrubs that are washed down the drain contain exfoliators, nanoparticle plastic beads, that are too small to filter out during wastewater treatment.  Consequently, they go into the ocean and lakes. Here they are eaten by marine fauna especially those that are filter feeders, e.g. mussels, causing circulatory and digestive blocking, malnutrition, and starvation.

Fortunately alternatives are readily available, e.g. crushed walnuts, strawberry seeds or bamboo, and many businesses in the beauty industry have announced they will phase out the use of plastic beads in their products over the next few years. This is true for conglomerates such as Unilever, Beierdsorf, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Johnson and Johnson, and Proctor and Gamble. We are lucky there are alternatives or the beauty industry might have fought this substitution.

Of even more concern was a study that was summarized by Kriti Gaur in the AJAS Environmental Science 2015 Annual AAAS Meeting held from February 12th to 16th of 2015. The Abstract of the recent study explained that the purpose of the study was to ascertain the effect of nanoparticle pollution and how it might alter the chemistry of the ocean.

It observed that nanoparticles are being used in many products in the world and that these particles are being released into the environment as pollutants. This includes contamination from nanoparticles composed of silver, gold, zinc, copper, and magnesium in various concentrations. These ingredients were studied in concentrations of 5%, 10%, and 15%.

Specifically, the objects of the study were two very common species of algae. As the abstract explained, “Algae is an extremely important marine organism, since it produces 70-80% of the oxygen on Earth, and can be used as a potential energy resource for the future, to make biofuels.”

Researchers found that, “as the concentration of the nanoparticles increased, the growth rates decreased (cells per drop and cell counts)…meaning that the algae were not converting as much CO2 to oxygen, hindering their rates of photosynthesis.” The Abstract continued as follows “It was concluded that the algae were impacted negatively by metal nanoparticles in their environment, and were poisoned by them, severely impacting the biological functioning of the algae. As a result they die off faster, and could not adapt to the conditions of toxicity in their environment.”

As stated in an earlier article on this blog, see “To Know Nano is to Say Whoa to Nano,” published in February 2013, nanoparticles are so small normal bodily barriers do not confine them. Nanoparticles penetrate the skin, are breathed into the lungs etc. and move in the circulatory system aggregating as substances in the organs of the body.

The previous article stated, “While most often composed of various metals such as silver, gold, titanium dioxide, and carbon, particles of this size can be created of almost anything.  One major problem is that these materials often act in surprising and distressing ways at this size.   They do not conform to the norms established at their usual scale in our environment.  They are often unpredictable.”

The article continued, “As witnessed in so many other technical breakthroughs, there is a virtual land rush of companies seeking competitive advantage by including nanoparticles in almost everything they make.  Today nanoparticles are added, without our knowledge, to such products as food, clothing, medicines, shampoos, suntan lotions, cosmetics, vitamins, and toothpaste.” This all today remains true.

Now the impacts of much of these nanoparticles that become pollutants are being felt around the world. While it is true we cannot pollute the vast oceans very fast, the effect of this pollution is that the algae will die and with it the production of the oxygen we all breathe will cease. Again these developments cannot continue without stringent and close regulation.

The effects of these nanoparticles must be known before they are allowed to go to market in products around the world. Once again we are allowing the profit motive to overwhelm the public’s safety. We cannot have our companies pollute the environment and threaten life’s very existence.

Use the following links to access additional information or see the articles used as the sources of this article.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/150514-sunscreen-nanoparticle-nanotechnology-oceans-marine-beach-boat-toxic/

http://www.aaas.org/abstract/study-metal-nanoparticle-toxicity-algae

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/350/6259/388.summary?sid=d2e1c5e9-b5d1-4508-bf8d-083c6a0c4230

http://www.edie.net/library/microbeads-pollution—a-drop-in-the-ocean-for-the-beauty-industry/6420

http://phys.org/news/2013-12-microplastic-pollution-threat-marine-biodiversity.html

http://wgntv.com/2014/04/16/lawmaker-moves-to-ban-microbeads-linked-to-lake-pollution/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611105311.htm

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2015/04/nanoparticle-toxicology

http://www.wisegeek.org/what-are-the-possible-dangers-of-nanotechnology.htm

http://ecowatch.com/2013/10/28/study-shows-plastic-microbeads-facial-scrubs-pollute-great-lakes/

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To Know Nano is to Say Whoa to Nano

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Jerry

If you haven’t learned about Nanotechnology, its time you did.  Chemical, food and packaging companies are once again adding risky, untested, and unlabeled ingredients or coverings to the products we consume in the U.S. and most of the world.  Now, in addition to genetic modifications to over 80% of what we buy in supermarkets, we must also worry about nanoparticles.

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of atomic and molecular particles which are from 1 to 100 nanometers in size.  For perspective, the diameter of a human hair is 40,000 to 60,000 nanometers.  This is so small that normal biological barriers do not stop these particles from spreading throughout the body.  Studies show that when inhaled, ingested, or just rubbed on the skin, nanoparticles move through these normal blood barriers and use the circulatory system to accumulate in all the organs of the body, including the brain.

While most often composed of various metals such as silver, gold, titanium dioxide, and carbon, particles of this size can be created of almost anything.  One major problem is that these materials often act in surprising and distressing ways at this size.   They do not conform to the norms established at their usual scale in our environment.  They are ofter unpredictable.  As witnessed in so many other technical breakthroughs, there is a virtual land rush of companies seeking competitive advantage by including nanoparticles in almost everything they make.  Today nanoparticles are added, without our knowledge, to such products as food, clothing, medicines, shampoos, suntan lotions, cosmetics, vitamins, and toothpaste. 

Their use is not restricted to smaller companies. The American Chemical Society journal recently identified that for example, Nano-titanium dioxide (a thickener and whitener) is in 187 of the products they tested.  These include M&Ms and Mentos, Dentyn and Trident chewing gums, Nestle coffee creamers, various flavors of Pop-Tarts, Kool-Aid, Jell-O pudding, and Betty Crocker cake frostings.  As already indicated, this is a very small sample of products using nanoparticles. They will soon be used in a plethora of packaging materials.  For instance they will be used as a preservative coating on bananas.

This has prompted scientific studies highlighting the risk of repeated human exposure.  As of this writing, studies of their effects show a connection between these particles and damage to our livers, cancer in our lungs and to brain edema, or swelling of the brain, in laboratory animals.  They also cite research that indicates damage to the DNA in research animals and the premature corrosion of metals.  Scientists have found the toxicity of these particles increases as their size gets smaller.  Of concern is the even greater absorption of these particles by children. These findings prompted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue its Current Intelligence Bulletin 63 – Occupational Exposure to Titanium Dioxide. 

It has also prompted scientists to comment.  Jürg Tschopp, the lead researcher and professor of biochemistry at Lausanne University said he was concerned nanoparticles could become the “asbestos of the future”.  In addition he is quoted as saying “With titanium dioxide you accumulate, like asbestos, particles in the lung.  You get chronic inflammation and this can last ten or 15 years and the next step is cancer.”  Richard Di Giulio, an environmental toxicologist participating in the study hosted by the Duke Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CIENT), stated “My suspicion, based on the limited amount of work that’s been done, is that nanoparticles are way less toxic than DDT, but what’s scary about nanoparticles is that we’re producing products with new nonmaterial far ahead of our ability to assess them.”

Once again at least the European Union is serving as a bastion of consumer protection by requiring at least the labeling of foods containing nanoparticles.  Other domestic and international efforts to force labeling disclosing nanoparticles have been vigorously opposed by the industries who think they can gain from the use of these materials.  They often will not even acknowledge their use, citing protection of their proprietary information.

Heather Millar, in her Orion Magazine article, “Pandora’s Boxes: Inside nanotechnology’s little universe of big unknowns” summed up our situation exactly.  She wrote “As a society, we’ve been here before – releasing ‘miracle technology’ before its potential health and environmental ramifications are understood, let alone investigated.  Remember how DDT was going to stamp out malaria and typhus and revolutionalize agriculture?  How asbestos was going to make buildings fireproof?  How bisphenol A (BPA) would make plastics clear and nearly shatterproof?  How methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) would make gasoline burn cleanly?  How polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were going to make electrical networks safer?  How genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were going to end hunger?”  Once again the material sciences have prompted businesses to get way ahead of our safety.

I must thank a doctor friend who insisted that Nanotechnology was something I needed to focus on.  While at this point it does not rise to the urgency of “threatening all life on this planet”, it could someday and is deserving of our attention.

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=24290.php

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/7278

http://www.iatp.org/documents/international-standards-for-trade-in-nano-coated-produce

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=government-fails-to-assess-dangers-of-nanotechnology

http://www.drugs.com/inactive/titanium-dioxide-70.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23111874

http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/10/19/toxsci.kfs306.abstract

http://phys.org/news/2012-11-nanoparticles-greater-danger-environment-previously.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19812977 

http://phys.org/news/2012-02-children-highest-exposure-titanium-dioxide.html

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