Tiny Technology Generates Mega Controversy
Today in industry, as well as in politics, there is an evolving new “buzz word.” And that term is Nanotechnology. Yesterday, Fox news on line carried an AP article heralding Berkley California’s city council as leading the way to a very needed address of potential hazards attached to this most special field of science and industry. Further, and perhaps a tad trite but still true, where goes California, so goes the nation and global community. But, what does the average consumer need to understand about this baby branch of science? It is not as simple as administering Geography tuition in Singapore to someone and getting over with it. And, where else can they look for any needed additional information on it? Finally, are there dangers and risks associated with its use; then If so, what is, or should be done to best manage these?
First, and pertinent to its impetus upon the average consumer, Medical News Today’s on-line publication posted a piece yesterday listing research and development expenditures by venture capitalists, corporations and governments as having already reached $9.6 billion per annum. They also predict an estimated 15 % of the total manufactured products across the globe will, in actuality, utilize this technology within the upcoming decade, or around $2.6 trillion in U.S. currency. Wow! But, if Berkley is endeavoring to governmentally regulate the thing, then, what do leading experts have to say about safety ramifications for the general public?
Around the middle of last month, Kevin Bullis published an interview with one of the field’s most learned professionals within the journal, Technology Review. And, according to data gleaned from reviewing Mr. Bullis‘ discourse with Andrew Maynard, science adviser to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, keynote concerns seem to be greater for workers than consumers, at least at this point. Plus, worries about utilizing are greatest surrounding the inhalation of minuscule carbon tubes associated with its use. This involves particulate matter taking up needed air exchange space within human lung tissue, resultantly leaving workers a little more air hungry than is thought to be healthy. Nanotech particles are known to cross the blood brain barrier, as well. Not unexpectedly, products that are less solid, such as creams and gels, may carry some slight risk along those lines to consumers. However, hardware products like a titanium tennis racket or an Ipod are deemed relatively safe, so far. You see, this facet of technology deals with the manufacture and usage of goods that are measured at the 1-100 manometer scale, or items that are the same size as one millionth of the head of a stick pin. And, there are already an about 350 of these goods on the market today. Hence, the depth of anxiety over possible inadvertent harm from microscopic particulate matter is, thereby, more readily understood.
Thirdly, from whom can the average consumer expect to gain up to the minute news on new developments? And above Berkley’s city council, upon whom may we depend for safety maintenance with regard to the technology’s ongoing evolution. Relative to the latter of these two queries and initially, one would think to look to OSHA, as they are our nation’s watchdog on industry with respect to assuring that workers are provided with adequate PPE, or protective personal equipment. Also, they are accountable for seeing that the hazardous materials, themselves, are handled according to established protocols. Some say the next step in safety maintenance would involve widely using a sensor device, and one that sounds an alarm when dangerous levels of particles are nearing a worker, as well as indicating exactly what any specified dangers to human health, actually, are. Moving on, the nation’s Energy Commission may need to mandate a few reasonable guidelines, since the science deals with sub atomic, or molecular level, technology, if they have not done so, as yet. Additionally, the Wilson Center has sponsored an ongoing endeavor entitled, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Both are funded through Pew Charitable Trusts. And their scholar who advises these prestigious bodies on matters of science recommends Rice University’s data bank on technological advances as a best source on developments in the field, to date. Last but by no means least, one may look to the House Science Committee attached to our national legislative bodies for informed action while this baby science continues to flourish and grow.
In conclusion, about thirty years ago a, rather, forward thinking gentleman predicted to me that by the time the next century turned: 1) mail would be sent around the globe at the speed of light, and on a daily basis; then, 2) business personnel seated at desks located on all four corners of the globe would meet using a T.V. – screen – like – apparatus, and it would seem as if they were around the same conference table. People thought this preposterous, even dangerous, then too. But it all came to pass, risks being adequately managed as they arose. The address of any inherent dangers with nano tech must become a welcome partnership between government, industry and the consumer, today and henceforth: Because, the advantages of its use have already been demonstrated as, if you’ll pardon the pun, virtually, limitless, and now is only the beginning.