12Nanotechnology: Is It Safe?

Nanoparticles have been part of our natural environment forever, yet historically we had little grasp of them or their health effects. Today, the tools of nanotechnology allow us to characterize and understand both natural and man-made nanoparticles and thus take a more rational approach to safety.

Youseph Yazdi, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

As we consider what happens at the convergence of bio and nano, it is important to consider safety issues, especially where and how nanotechnology – especially nanoparticles – might potentially cause harm to humans, or to the environment.

In the realm of nanotechnology, safety is an issue that impacts everyone. As a consumer, you may worry that nanoparticles in a food product or cosmetic will cause cancer or some other disease. If you're an employer at a company whose products use nanomaterials, you worry about the safety of your employees who might inhale or absorb nanoparticles in the workplace. If you work in medicine or healthcare, you know that nanoinnovations need to pass rigorous animal and human clinical trials to confirm that they are safe as well as effective. As environmentalists, we all need to ensure that nanoparticles created to solve problems don't inadvertently cause problems when they are released into the environment. If you work in city government, you may worry about health hazards if nanoparticles that find their way into the sewer system and kill ...

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