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Nanobot health risk?

Nano particles shown to lodge in brain (!)

reposted from CNN.
Find original here:  http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/ptech/01/09/nanotech.health.reut/index.html
Scientists: Nanotech particles threaten brain

Researchers say emerging tech could pose health risk

Friday, January 9, 2004 Posted: 11:11 AM EST (1611 GMT)

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- British scientists called on Thursday for more research into the safety of nanoparticles, materials so small that their dimensions can be measured in atoms, following evidence they can lodge in the brain.

Nanotechnology, which could revolutionise the healthcare, consumer goods and construction industries, has been touted by advocates as a potential multibillion dollar industry.

Prophets of doom have painted a nightmare scenario of self-replicating robots turning the Earth into a "grey goo."

But Ken Donaldson, Professor of Respiratory Toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, said the real risk lay in breathing in designer materials so small that they can slip through membranes inside the body.

Research on rats has shown nanoparticles deposited in the nose can migrate to the brain and move from the lungs into the bloodstream, he told reporters.

So far, it is unclear whether this poses any health threat to humans. But Donaldson, who will address a scientific conference next week on the potential hazards of nanotech at the Daresbury Laboratory research centre in northern England, urges caution.

"The big worry would be if a nanotechnology business designs nanoparticles that are fundamentally different from the ones we are already exposed to and seem to cope with reasonably well," he said.

Modern humans breathe in considerable numbers of nanoparticles on a daily basis in traffic fumes and even from cooking. In some individuals they can trigger asthma or even cardiovascular problems, by setting off an inflammatory response from the body's immune system.

The new materials being developed through nanotechnology -- which involves manipulating matter on a scale of a billionth of a metre, or about 80,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair -- might trigger more severe reactions.

Mike Horton, professor of Medicine at University College London and co-director of the new London Centre for Nanotechnology, said scientists were treating the issue "very seriously" and had learnt the lessons of public disquiet over genetic engineering.

He called for more experiments to establish how nanoparticles reached the brain and what the impact might be. But he dismissed the idea of a moratorium on nanotechnology.

"The impact would be exactly the same as the moratorium on genetic modification in Germany which wiped out a whole area of biological science for 30 years. That would be a disaster," he said.
Clarity 10.Jan.2004 09:42

Bill

"it is unclear whether this poses any health threat to humans"

The article nominates two clear threats to humans : one to ridicule, one to minimize.

What are not clear are the magnitudes and probababilities of these threats, other threats unmentioned, methods and costs of containing these and other threats, who will bear the risks, who will bear the profits, and who will make choices.

This article magnifies possible benefits and minimizes risks. It provides little useful information and muddles what it does provide.

It seems destined to assure that those who expect to profit will make the decisions, and offload the risks and costs onto others.

health risks 10.Jan.2004 16:09

careful

I really think health risks are the wrong thing to focus on re nanotech. If people were concerned enough about health risks, this world would look a whole lot different. Hell, I'm going to go smoke a cig right now. I think that focusing on the control over life, big brother, type stuff may be best, like the impact on farmer autonomy from terminator seeds was a good angle. There are certainly nano equivelants.

Spin, spin, spin 10.Jan.2004 17:42

xyzzy

Spin, spin, spin. Let's rephrase some sentences from this article to create equally true ones just to show how much it's been spun:

"Nanotechnology, which could revolutionise the healthcare, consumer goods and construction industries, has been touted by advocates as a potential multibillion dollar industry."

Nanotechnology, which could destroy the biosphere, has been touted by those who seek to profit from it as a potential multibillion dollar industry.

"Prophets of doom have painted a nightmare scenario of self-replicating robots turning the Earth into a 'grey goo.'"

Critical scientists have painted a nightmare scenario of self-replicating robots turning the Earth into a "grey goo."

"So far, it is unclear whether this poses any health threat to humans."

So far, it is unclear whether this technology is safe for humans or any other living thing.

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