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26
Jun

Research Urgently Needed to Evaluate Risks of Nano Technology

(Beyond Pesticides, June 26, 2012) A new analysis of the current state of nano pesticide-based technologies shows that human and environmental risks are not fully understood and calls on the use of precautionary principal, which suggests minimizing environmental release of nano-particles until their fate and toxicity is better understood. The study, Nano-pesticides: State of knowledge, environmental fate and exposure modeling was was published in the June 6th issue of Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology.

“A good understanding of nano-materials is essential to evaluate whether the benefits overcome potential new risks,” explains co-author Thilo Hofmann, Ph.D., of the University of Vienna study.

According to the researchers, the current level of knowledge does not allow a fair assessment of the advantages and disadvantages that will result from the use of nano-pesticides. As a prerequisite for such assessment, a better understanding of the fate and effect of nano-pesticides after their application is required. The suitability of current regulations should also be analyzed so that refinements can be implemented if needed. Research on nano-pesticides is therefore a priority for preserving the safety of both the food chain and the environment.

The study echoes similar findings of a U.S. Government Accountability Office report, entitled “Improved Performance Information Needed for Environmental, Health and Safety Research,” published last month. The report looked at changes in federal funding for environmental, health and safety research (EHS) on nanotechnology for the fiscal years 2006-2010 and noted a more than doubling of National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) member agencies’ funding. GAO identified several reporting problems, raising concerns about the quality of EHS funding data reported. For example, for 18 percent of the 2010 projects GAO reviewed, that were reported as EHS research, it was not clear that the projects were primarily directed at EHS risks. In addition, NNI member agencies did not always report funding using comparable data.

Nanotechnology is a relatively new technology for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level. Just as the size and chemical characteristics of manufactured nanoparticles can give them unique properties, those same new properties –tiny size, vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, high reactivity– can also create unique and unpredictable human health and environmental risks. Nanoscale engineering manipulates materials at the molecular level to create structures with unique and useful properties -materials that are both very strong and very light, for example. Many of the products containing nanomaterials on the market now are for skin care and cosmetics, but nanomaterials are also increasingly being used in products ranging from medical therapies to food additives to electronics. In 2009, developers generated $1 billion from the sale of nanomaterials, and the market for products that rely on these materials is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2015.

In the meantime, consumer products that contain nanosilver and other nanomaterials continue to grow with little to no regulatory oversight. So far, there are hundreds of products with nanosilver from toys to band-aids. For more information on nanotechnology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page.

Source: University of Vienna

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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