We now know that both titanium dioxide nanoparticles (used in sunscreens, cosmetics, food packaging, paints, clothing and more) and carbon fullerenes (used in high end anti-ageing creams and mooted for use in medicines, solar cells and superconductors) can be passed from pregnant mice to their offspring, with consequent harm to health (see here and here). Now a startling new study has shown that rice plants exposed to carbon fullerenes also transmit these nanomaterials to the next generation. Exposure to both carbon fullerenes and carbon nanotubes also delays the onset of rice flowering by at least 1 month and reduces seed set.
The June Newsletter of the Innovation Society (St Gallen, Switzerland, suggests that a series of legislative amendments adopted by the European Parliament over the past two months "might herald a change of paradigm for nanotechnology regulation in Europe, from a rather reluctant government position toward a more explicit approach on manufactured nanomaterials". The item is copied below, and the original can be viewed on the Innovation Society’s website.
We hear lots of predictions that nanotechnology could drive the ‘next industrial revolution’, or ‘transform every aspect of our lives’. We hear less discussion about whether or not we should take such predictions seriously, or what social consequences they might bring. In a chapter published in the 2008 "Yearbook of Nanotechnology in Society", FoEA’s Georgia Miller explores some of these issues, asks what we can learn from the last industrial revolution, and looks at what’s driving nanotechnology development today.
Georgia Miller from Friends of the Earth Australia (via video link) joined Sue Davies from UK consumer group Which? and Professor Vyvyan Howard representing the Soil Association in giving evidence to the UK House of Lords Inquiry into Nanotechnologies and Food. Georgia emphasised that nanotechnology’s use in food poses challenges far beyond those of food safety. It demands that we question what sort of food and agricultural policy we want to support, and whether nanotechnology will help or hinder efforts to improve its ecological sustainability and social value.
NGOs had hoped that the recent Second International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) which took place in Geneva would support urgent action to curb the new toxicity risks associated with nanomaterials. Last year’s International Forum on Chemical Safety backed a strongly precautionary approach to handling nano risks and emphasised the importance of affected people being involved in decision making. However despite that encouraging precedent, NGOs were extremely disappointed at the outcomes of the ICCM meeting, which failed to back tough action to protect people and the environment from nano risks, and failed to advocate strongly for marginalised groups.