FOEA Emerging tech Project

Worst ship-caused damage to Great Barrier Reef – would nano have made it worse?

The Australian newspaper reports on the worst damage to the Great Barrier reef ever caused by a ship. The 100,000 tonne coal carrier the Shen Neh 1 "pulverised" a 3km section of the reef in the 9 days it was stranded on the coral. Now scientists warn that anti-fouling paint from the ship, left everywhere they have looked so far, could cause considerable long-term damage to the reef. FOEA asks, would the reef’s recovery be further set back if this were anti-bacterial nano-paint, and what action is required to ensure that manufactured nanomaterials are not posing unacceptable risks to our marine environment?

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Time to ask the unaskable questions about new technologies?

The emerging policy debate about nanotechnology has tended to focus on the immediate health and environmental risks of nanoparticles. This is understandable – everyone cares about safety. But in the economic and political rush to invest big in nanotechnology and bring products to market quickly, have some of the bigger questions about its social, political and economic dimensions become "unaskable" – and will this come at a cost? Andrew Maynard explores these issues in a new blog for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (copied below).

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Don’t (accidentally) eat your nano-sunscreen! Study finds nano-ingredients toxic to human colon cells

FOEA and others have long been concerned that the chance of greater sun damage to skin is not the only potential health risk posed by nano-sunscreens. Now a new test tube study has found that nanoparticles of zinc oxide, a common sunscreen ingredient, are significantly more toxic to human colon cells than bulk particles of the zinc oxide, when nanoparticles are in direct contact with the cells. The authors suggest that nano-sunscreens could pose health harm if accidentally eaten, for example by children. The nanoparticle concentration tested in their study is equivalent to eating 2 grams of 10% zinc oxide sunscreen.

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