Article Abstract

Nanotechnology: Can We Get As Safe As We Are Small?
Paul A. Beck; University of Minnesota Duluth

Nanotechnology is making waves in almost every major industry. Interest in nanotechnology stretches worldwide and is believed to be the next generation of production, making materials lighter, stronger, more durable and efficient. Nanomaterials are already being utilized and can be found in anything from household products, to medical equipment and even sporting goods. Billions of dollars are being invested every year in the research and development in hopes of groundbreaking discoveries and huge economic gains. The problem with nanotechnology is the lack of knowledge and understanding of the possible adverse effects on health and safety and the impact on the environment.

As the demand for faster chip speeds continues, the semiconductor industry may have to convert to the use of carbon nanotubes as an alternative form of transistor. In preliminary animal testing, carbon nanotubes have shown to have similar effects as asbestos. Until more is known about the possible short and long term toxicities and how to protect against them, individuals and industries working with nanomaterials could be putting themselves in grave danger. Scientists, researchers, and safety professionals are working hard to bring everything up to speed before the technology out runs the ability to defend against it. Solutions, standards, and permissible limits, not recommendations, are going to have to be developed in order to protect the future of nanotechnology and everything it touches.

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