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Nano-particles clumping up in water -- photo courtesy of John Fortner of Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Are we ready for close encounters with nanopollution? How will we know without research!

As technology enters the close of the first decade this millennium, nanotechnology becomes increasingly more important in product development. Processors, chipsets, memory, displays and other electronics are marching toward the use of nanotech at and astonishing rate. In the U.S., we're already developing technology manufactured at the nanometer and sub-nanometer (picometer) level.

Carbon nanotubes, a high strength and versatile material composed of molecular configurations of pure carbon, may be the key to next generation technology in everything from the space elevator to high-speed processors. DailyTech previously reported that future Seagate hard drives may be lubricated by nanotubes. Weeks later MIT researchers released a report that claimed new nanotube-type batteries could be recharged in seconds and hold charges much longer than conventional rechargeable batteries. 

But outside of research, nanotech is here already. Research advocates have identified more than 400 consumer products in the U.S. labeled as "nano-based."  Some of these products, like microprocessors, pose relatively little risk to consumer, but the long term effects of other products like nano-aerosols is a bit less understood.  Additionally, the manufacturing by-products of these products are completely unregulated or monitored.

Nanotech and the production of nano-based devices create a type of pollution that is so small, it is extremely difficult to detect or contain. Researchers are afraid of the effect that nanopollution might have on humans, animals and other living organisms.

Nanoparticles are so small that they easily penetrate cells, a handy technique when geneticists attempt to modify genes when done intentionally. However, even when deliberate, the body detects foreign objects and creates phagocytes to break down invading material. Of course, if the body's phagocytes are busy digesting nanoparticles, the cells can't break down bacteria or other debris inside the body. Quantum dots, or nanoparticles used for semiconductors, are so small that they will actually pass right through cell walls -- yet we have relatively little research on what occurs when quantum dots interact with the human body.

DailyTech
previously reported on carbon nanotubes and the possible effect on the human respiratory system -- a place where nanotubes has already been documented to cause problems in significant quantities.

But nano-related health hazards aren't the only worries; environmental problems pose equal hazards.  Michael Moffitt, vice president of environmental services for Western Technologies, is concerned about the future of nanopollution, and describes nanotech as "a double-edged sword," to during a presentation at the Semiconductor Environmental Safety Association convention held in 2005. 

The problem researchers have today is determining whether or not nanopollutants behave the same in the natural environment as other common waste products.  Andrew Maynard, one of the few advocates for nanotechnology research with regard to occupational health, has issued a call for national awareness of nanotechnology interactions on the nanoproject.org portal. "The good news is that international concern over how to ensure safe nanotech workplaces has resulted in some progress. The bad news is that critical questions about worker safety -- and about broader environmental, human health and safety issues -- remain unanswered," Maynard claims.

Researchers at Rice University Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology are currently investigating possible means of treating nano-waste products before they are released into the environment. While experimenting with fullerenes or buckyballs composed of C60 carbon nanoparticles, researchers found that it was not possible to dispose of nano-waste using traditional means. But never mind attempts at disposal, the few researchers involved with buckyball research are actually still debating on whether or not fullerenes are even hazardous to organisms.

The terms "nanopollution" and "nanowaste" will become ever more popular as the decade comes to a close. On a global scale, current technology already has a number of ecological problems such as dumping and e-waste, and the ugly side nano-tech make its appearance sooner than later if we're not vigilant.



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RE: Toilet
By Grast on 1/19/2007 10:30:14 AM , Rating: 2
We are healthier in the respects that our average life expantency is now over 85 compared to 45 in the late 1800's. We are healthier in our ability to treat health issues such as obesiety.

I say the anwser is yes and no. If we could get poeple to go and exercise at least twice a week for 30 minutes and get exercise back into the school systems, we could really start to see the advantages of our health discoveries.


RE: Toilet
By IntelUser2000 on 1/20/2007 8:13:21 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
We are healthier in the respects that our average life expantency is now over 85 compared to 45 in the late 1800's. We are healthier in our ability to treat health issues such as obesiety.

I say the anwser is yes and no. If we could get poeple to go and exercise at least twice a week for 30 minutes and get exercise back into the school systems, we could really start to see the advantages of our health discoveries.


Whatever. The increase in life expectations have to do solely with sanitation. People only seem to know its bad for them when its directly noticeable(stabbing, getting shot, poisoned, all immediate effects), but don't notice the indirect ones(smoking, pollution, low level poison). Some reports say native americans before European arrival had average lifespan of 70 years. Of course it all plummetted after drinking/smoking/delibrate poisoning/diseases were brought by Europeans.

Technology just brought new advantages/disadvantages just to equalize it. Public awareness of sanitation was the single biggest cause of increased life expectancy.


RE: Toilet
By Ringold on 1/20/2007 9:52:46 PM , Rating: 2
That contains the typical anti-capitalist rhetoric of any good environmentalist post. Capitalist Europeans come to these kind communal/communist society native Americans, sell their wares to these poor folk, and their lifestyles collapse.

A quick Google search suggests Mayan lifespans between 25-30, Roman lifespans during the time of Jesus to be 35. In America in 1901 it was 49.

According to the infallible truthbook Wikipedia:

Neanderthal: 20 (Close enough to human..)
Upper Paleolithic: 33 (Apparently if you made it to 15 you'd probably make it on to 54)
Neolithic: 20
Bronze Age: 18 (Ouch!)
Classical Greece: 28
Classical Rome: 28
Medieval Britain: 33
End of 19th Century Europe: 37 (America in 1901 was 49 - Ha, Europeans.)
Current World Average: 66
Current World Average for 'native groups': 34

And today, 77 or 78 is it?

Not to mention, sanitation wouldn't help a Native American child born with poor eye sight or some defect that today is simple to correct surgically but then would've meant death.


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