Products made with nano-sized technology are appearing across the country as companies bet that nanotechnology will be a hit. According to a report by Investors.com, however, selling nanotech-derived products is not a guaranteed hit since environmental groups call to question the technology's safety.
Nanotechnology, according to the report, is a science that manipulates matter at a molecular level. This tiny size is said to give nano-parts or devices novel properties such as unusual strength but their small size has caused alarm regarding their level of penetration. In relation to this, some companies have become leery of putting "nano" in product names or labels and they fear a regulatory backlash.
According to the report, the onus is on the nanotech industry to show that its products are safe, say company executives, consultants and regulatory agencies. "No one wants to be the next asbestos," said James Von Ehr, chief executive of nano startup Zyvex, in the report. "On the other hand, scare-mongering by environmental groups is hurtful to innovation."
Nano-related R&D is rising fast; General Electric, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods reportedly are among the big spenders. US companies spent US$1.8 billion on nano R&D in 2005, reported Lux Research. The federal government also reportedly spent $1.6 billion in nano projects.
Consumer views on nanotech safety depend on the products involved, says Jane Macoubrie, who reportedly conducted a study for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The center lists 276 nano-products on store shelves, at: www.nanotechproject.org/consumerproducts.
"Nobody is worried about nano-layers in computer chips," Macoubrie said. "People are much more worried about nanotech use in food, cosmetics or personal care products, when things can be ingested or taken up in the body." Some cosmetics makers have put nanoparticles in sunscreens, antiaging creams and other products."
The FDA has set up a task force to study nanotechnology and it has planned hearing for this fall.