chapter  13
13 Pages

Nanotechnology and Nanoparticle Toxicity: A Case for Precaution

The term ‘nanotechnology’ is a catch-all for a large array of enabling technologies.Many of the activities in the nanotechnology industry do not pose a direct threat to human or environmental health, for example the nanostructuring of surfaces of large objects such as window glass. There is little doubt that nanotechnology presents possibilities for many benefits. Some future developments, for example in the nano-bio-technology arena, have the potential to impact upon human and environmental health, and this may emerge in the not too distant future. However, there is at least one current aspect of activity in the nanotechnology industry that is potentially hazardous: the production of very small particles that are free in the environment. There is a considerable existing scientific literature that highlights the potential of small particles to cause harm. The industry is now moving into the phase of bulk production of certain types of novel nanoparticles and therefore, if regulators are to have the chance to interact meaningfully with producers, to protect human health, there is a certain urgency required. The signs are that decision-makers have realized the problems that exist and are starting to formulate strategies (EU, 2004; Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, 2004). The purpose of this chapter is to review the latest state of scientific knowledge of the potential effects of particle exposure on health and the current state of knowledge on nanoparticle toxicology.