Experts demand more research into nanotech risks

日期:2019-03-01 05:14:04 作者:暴踔 阅读:

By New Scientist Tech and Reuters More research on the potential health and environmental hazards of nanotechnology is needed to ensure public confidence in the fast-growing industry, UK experts warned on Wednesday. Nanotechnology, which involves manipulating materials on the scale of a few billionths of a metre, has significant potential in fields ranging from computing to cosmetics to fuel. But experts warn that nanoparticles may sometimes be dangerous if they interact with the human body or the environment in unexpected ways. For example, gold particles less than 2 billionths of a metre in size have been found to bind to DNA. The UK government’s top-level advisory body, the Council for Science and Technology (CST), says the UK took an early lead by commissioning a 2004 report on nanotechnology (see Most nanotech poses no new risks) but had failed to follow through with necessary research funding. “There has been virtually nothing done by the Government to resolve this problem,” says John Beringer, who chaired a CST sub-committee assessing nanotech progress. He argues that strategic government funding is justified by the economic importance of nanotechnology and their peculiar nature of nanoparticles. The CST say government spending on assessing the risks of such changes had averaged only £600,000 ($1.2 million) annually over the past five years, while a minimum of £5m to £6m ($10m to $12m) was needed. The UK’s science minister Malcolm Wicks acknowledges that more needs to be done but claims few researchers have applied for existing funding. The problem is not confined to the UK. Andrew Maynard of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the US welcomes the CST review and says other governments have also fallen short. He notes that the US has invested just $11 million on relevant risk research, despite spending more than $1 billion per year on nanotechnology overall. Although largely unnoticed by consumers, the use of nanotechnology-enabled products is expanding rapidly. The Woodrow Wilson institution counts 360 consumer goods that now use nanotechnology, from laptops to a type of tea enriched with selenium, up from around 200 goods a year ago. Beringer says the worldwide market for nanotechnologies is likely to reach $1 trillion by 2015, a figure some analysts believe is conservative. Independent research firm Lux Research estimates more than $32 billion in products containing nanomaterials were sold globally in 2005 and projects that sales will hit $2.6 trillion by 2014. Nanotechnology – Learn more about all things nano in our special report. More on these topics: