December 04, 2005
Support Builds For Nanomaterials Safety Regulations

Fear of nanomaterials toxicity is leading to greater regulatory agency interest.

Nanomaterials are already being integrated into a wide range of products, including sports equipment, computers, food wrappings, stain-resistant fabrics and an array of cosmetics and sunscreens -- a market expected to exceed $1 trillion a year within a decade. Preliminary studies suggest that most of these products do not pose significant risks in their bulk form or embedded in the kinds of products that so far use them.

But the same cannot be said of the particles themselves, which can pose health risks to workers where they are made and may cause health or environmental problems as discarded products break down in landfills.

Lab animal studies have already shown that some carbon nanospheres and nanotubes behave differently than conventional ultrafine particles, causing fatal inflammation in the lungs of rodents, organ damage in fish and death in ecologically important aquatic organisms and soil-dwelling bacteria.

I look at this intuitively: One of the reasons scientists make nanoscale particles is that the same materials behave differently if made using much smaller sizes. The small sizes powerfully change behavior. For example, carbon tubes make miniature springs that do not wear out and that might be useful in human joints to increase ability to absorb strong shocks. But with greater changes in behavior come greater risk of unexpected and undesired side effects. Well, this intuitive expectation is being borne out by recent experiments as the previous article reports.

Some recent work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that both nanotubes and nano-onions (really, I am not making this up) cause changes in gene regulation and cell division.

The increasing use of nanotechnology in consumer products and medical applications underlies the importance of understanding its potential toxic effects to people and the environment. Although both fullerene and carbon nanotubes have been demonstrated to accumulate to cytotoxic levels within organs of various animal models and cell types and carbon nanomaterials have been exploited for cancer therapies, the molecular and cellular mechanisms for cytotoxicity of this class of nanomaterial are not yet fully apparent. To address this question, we have performed whole genome expression array analysis and high content image analysis based phenotypic measurements on human skin fibroblast cell populations exposed to multiwall carbon nano-onions (MWCNOs) and multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). Here we demonstrate that exposing cells to MWCNOs and MWCNTs at cytotoxic doses induces cell cycle arrest and increases apoptosis/necrosis. Expression array analysis indicates that multiple cellular pathways are perturbed after exposure to these nanomaterials at these doses, with material-specific toxigenomic profiles observed.

You've no doubt heard about the health benefits of onions. Well, nano-onions are better for you than nanotubes.

Chen and colleagues found that exposure to the nanotubes and nano-onions activated genes involved in cellular transport, metabolism, cell-cycle regulation and stress response. Multi-walled carbon nanotubes induced genes related to a strong immune and inflammatory response, while the presence of nano-onions caused most changes in genes induced in response to external stimuli. The nanotubes appeared to be ten times more toxic than the nano-onions.

These sorts of effects are potentially useful in medical research. The power of nano-materials like any capability is a double-edged sword. The ability to effect changes in the environment is useful or harmful in different contexts. Nothing new about that idea. Just different kinds of materials creating the promise and the risk.

On the bright side, research on nanomaterials toxicity has turned up ways to reduce the toxicity.

Researchers from Rice University, US, have found that the toxicity of water-soluble carbon nanotubes to human skin cells decreased as the functionalization of the tubes increased. The results are similar to the team's findings for fullerene molecules last year, although the nanotubes were generally less toxic than the fullerenes.

I expect nanotechnology to bring orders of magnitude more benefits than costs - at least as long as we do not make nano-replicators.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 December 04 09:49 PM  Dangers Nanotech

Lono said at December 5, 2005 10:14 AM:

I worry that we are really getting ahead of ourselves with Nano-Technology.

It is troubling that almost all scientific limitations are based on economic factors with no real attention to benefit/risk evaluations.

Nano pollution and nano-replicators are serious issues we should consider as a species before going recklessly forward into the technological abyss.

I do not know if I agree that the benfits far outwiegh the risks of this specific technology - not if the growth of this sector continues to increase completly unchecked.

At some point, as we approach the "technological singularity", we may need to judicitiously apply the brakes - even using stifiling or overly cautious government regulation when necessary.

Otherwise the short term costs to our species may be enormous - if not completely disasterous for the whole Human Race.

Of course some governments, due to their totalitarian structure, may not be able to be reined in my political or social pressure.

Hugh Angell said at December 6, 2005 4:33 PM:

When I see the "Natural Resources Defense Council" and its ilk mentioned in a news story I
become very suspicious. What is their 'expertise' and why are they always hovering around
stories such as this Washington Post piece. I did not appoint them my 'watchdog' and I
sure don't think some 'public interest' lawyer in any way represents or has my best
interests at heart so I ask 'what's in it for them or whom do they represent?'

As noted above America is not the only dog in this hunt. The EU is intensely interested in
nanotech as new technology they do not want to fall behind in. I don't want to sound like
a conspiracy theorist here but it cannot have failed to escape the notice of our
competitors around the world that the easiest way to thwart American science and industry
is not just to pour more money and effort into one's own research but to tie up American
companies in court or demonize the areas of technology where we lead.

Look what Europe has done to Monsanto and its GM agricultural products. Look what Europe
has been trying to do to Microsoft, Boeing. Europe has seen more and more of its biotech
leak across the Atlantic to the US. I would not for a minute but it past the Eurocrats
to underwrite a smear campaign against nanotech, similiar to that implemented against
Monsanto and other US GM products, to demonize any technology the Europeans are not able
to compete with us in. Since the US tends toward smaller, more nimble companies for new
fields like bio and nano tech they have good reason to slow the pace of new development
in these fields until they can gin up their own 'multinational consortium' model to
compete. If the Washington Post wants to look into something that 'endangers' the American
public they might want to start with the NRDC etc. and where their funding comes from.

Randall Parker said at December 6, 2005 8:46 PM:


Just because some environmentalists are nutty does not mean that all pollutants are harmless.

Lono said at December 7, 2005 7:03 AM:


Hugh that is a higly paranoid take on the situation imho...

And as for Monsanto, despite some of their innovative and impressive technologies, they have a long history of short sightedness and dangerous negligence - especially when it comes to the effects of releasing GM crops and animals into the biosphere.

Hugh Angell said at December 8, 2005 6:00 PM:

I do not think it 'paranoid' to wonder why the "Natural Resources Defence Council" is at
the 'forefront' of so many 'news' stories dealing with medical and environmental issues
anymore than one might notice the ACLU is never far from stories dealing with, e.g.,capital

Far from 'thinking outside the box' to not notice is retarded. Which brings me to a related
point. Why did the word 'retarded' vanish from the printed lexicon. Who made this word
vanish. Why no one did. It just up and disappeared might be the common consensus. It, along
with crippled, negro, and a number of other, perfectly adequate and polite terms, were
expunged from 'educated' society by a more sinister process than outright banishment.

Seasons Greetings replaces Merry Christmas by the same method. GM and Nanotechnology are
in the crosshairs. If you can't see the process don't accuse those who do of being
paranoid. It might behoove you to 'think outside the box'. It is your professed goal

Lono said at December 9, 2005 12:52 PM:

Are you joking!??

Society is growing farther and farther from its tribal roots and with that comes progress - things like tolerance for minorities and the disabled.

Now that we can efficiently gather and process natural resources our normal, selfish predjudices are no longer necessary for survival - and thus such short sighted thinking and injurous language naturally becomes taboo.

As far as Christmas becoming "Holiday" - thats the way it goes - we don't live in a Christian theocracy as much as you or I might like it to be.

I myself would like to never hear "thinking outside the box" ever uttured again as it has become irredeemably cliche and overused.

I have no doubt that the "Natural Resources Defence Council" and other forces are "conspiring" to keep certain tech under control - a concern that many of us in the U.S. have also - but to believe that they are masterminding some kind of techological coup in the EU by using political/legal pressure against the US is rather fanciful.

Heck they couldn't even successfully condemn us from invading a soverign country during peacetime - much like they failed to prevent Germany's imperial ambitions years ago.

Hugh Angell said at December 9, 2005 5:56 PM:

"Society is growing farther and farther from its tribal roots and with that comes progress -things like tolerance for minorities and the disabled."

Clearly, you are a cybercliche.

"Tolerance for minorities" you say. May I remind you that within human memory, perhaps
the greatest genocide in human history took place? It was done by the same, genetically,
people who today profess their 'change of heart'. Perhaps; but clearly, given the same
stresses and political circumstances these same people, OR ANY OF US, could do the same

We are no different, we are not better. The "Germans' or the "Hutus" are not biologically
'different'. We are no better or any different then they. Or do you have evidence to the
contrary? I think not.

As to the 'tolerance for the disabled'. Are you human? One must wonder. People have cared
for their sick, elderly and wounded for as long as humanity has existed. Why do females
live longer than males? It is not because females were stronger than males. Do you really
imagine yourself, in anyway, 'superior' to an ancient Roman, an ancient Greek, an neolithic
Cro Magnon. I would suggest the opposite. Secure in you technological cocoon, with your
hubris, you aren't even their equal.

I think you are spewing psuedo intellectual crap because you mind has been PC'd. The sad
fact is you don't even realize it.

BTW, 'thinking outside the box' was raison d'etre,
as expressed by the owner of this website, for
its creation. If you have a problem with that
expression I suggest you take it up with him.

Dee said at December 20, 2007 12:33 AM:


Any chance you have any links to the comment you made about the work Lawrence Livermore Lab
was doing concerning Nano carbon tubes

Your comment was:

Some recent work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that both nanotubes and nano-onions (really, I am not making this up) cause changes in gene regulation and cell division.

I am just a layperson, but I have found out some other facts concerning this multi walled
carbon nanotube onions as they now call them. And the fact that your comments were made in
2005, and a patent recently issued for methods to determine cytotoxic doses that will halt
the cycle of the cell concerning nanomaterials, well alot of us laypersons are trying to
figure out the different uses of these carbon nanotubes that has to do with the
ultra fine powders and transparent liquid gases of CHEMTRAILS they have been Xing our planet with.

I, myself, am aware, it has something to do with a new type of alternative energy (off grid Tesla like energy) or maybe this alternative energy is for government use and government use only. Also it seems the energy has other functions. A magnetic shield
to block missiles maybe. I tend to be more out of the box then most people. I also
am aware it is also a type of transmission field too. Of course encrpted, but it
appears they have DNA type markers too, and is also part of their quantum cryptography.

I have knows for quite some time, that my town, which is situated about 40-50 east of
Lawrence Livermore Nat Lab, is some kind of test tube baby for them.

Please do not read this and think I am a nut. I am not. Just because I am a layperson,
does not mean I do not have the capacity in researching to put 2 and 2 together and to following the bouncing balls of the orbs in the skies, and to zoom in on the chemtrails
and to zoom in on microscopic snow and rain. Well, some people make connections and
some people do not. I have been able to make connections, along with a few others.

The nanotechnology world has been exploding without once looking back. They were well
aware alot of this nanotechnology was harmful, but they saw money and ignored the
warning signs of harm and irresponsibly pushed forward with the technology.

It is 2007, and still the benefits in no way outweigh the risks to the population. But
when its money in someone's pocket book, well then the benefits outweigh all risks, and
nevermind the population.

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