AOL brings us a groundbreaking series on the dangers of nanotechnology

Folks, do yourself a favor and walk, don't run -- OK, just click through -- to see the important new investigative project on the dangers of nanotechnology, and what a pitiful job our government is doing monitoring this technology we now find in our medicine, beauty aids, soaps, sunscreens, clothes and food -- the very stuff we put on and in our bodies.

Nano, it's turning out, often appears to have serious health consequences when scientists look into it -- even causing harmful changes in DNA. Serious stuff, my friends. But it's proliferating at a rate that far eclipses researchers' ability to gauge the technology's danger. And it's being unleashed on America's consumers with almost no regulation.

Here's a pretty good summary of the danger:

"Nanoparticles can heal, but they can also kill. Thanks to their size, researchers have found, they can enter the body by almost every pathway. They can be inhaled, ingested, absorbed through skin and eyes. They can invade the brain through the olfactory nerves in the nose.

"After penetrating the body, nanoparticles can enter cells, move from organ to organ and even cross the protective blood-brain barrier. They can also get into the bloodstream, bone marrow, nerves, ovaries, muscles and lymph nodes.

The series is by my former reporting partner, Andy Schneider, who has won two Pulitzer Prizes in the past and could be on his way to another. Andy's a remarkable reporter -- a godsend, really. I'm so glad to see that after getting laid off with a bunch of us from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a  year ago, he's landed where he can keep doing important journalism.

Rita Hibbard's picture

Come the (nano)revolution, let's know the risks

They're everywhere - those tiny, really tiny, particles that can do everything from making cooking oil last longer to keeping drill bits sharp, and the Bay Area is the epicenter of the "nanorevolution," writes Steve Johnson in the San Jose Mercury News. Johnson lists a fascninating and wildly divergent list of projects using nanotechnology, some already in production, some still in research phase, including researchers studying whether nanoparticles can be used to hunt out and kill tumors or clean up chemical waste sites. Ten percent of the companies, universities and other groups in the nation that have jumped into nanotechnology are in or near the Silicon Valley, a new study by the nonprofit Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. shows.

"The Bay Area is the epicenter of the nanorevolution in the U.S.," said David Rejeski, who directs the center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in collaboration with Pew Charitable Trusts. "This is how we're going to make things over the next 50 to 100 years. This is huge economically."

 Yet while the potential upside is huge, and more than 600 products on the market already incorporate some nanotechnology, "not everyone is ecstatic about the trend," Johnson notes.

Environmentalists have voiced fears that nanomaterials could pose serious health threats, and the National Research Council in December issued a report saying the government has failed to fully assess such risks. To determine the potential danger of using carbon nanotubes, California's Department of Toxic Substances Control in January asked companies involved in the technology in the state to report any problems the tiny materials may have caused and how the firms are monitoring the particles' safety.

Yeah, I get it. If we're eating these particles. And sharpening our tools with them.