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Nanoparticles – As Deadly As Asbestos?

March 21, 2010

According to a report compiled by the ‘Investor Environmental Health Network’ (IEHN) potentially hazardous nanotechnologies are flooding the market but similar regulatory flaws that permitted asbestos manufacturers to conceal vital information from investors are slipping through the net once again. The IEHN report identifies 8 loopholes allowing companies to avoid valid estimation and disclosure of contingent liabilities, and the ‘Investor Environmental Health Network’ (a partnership of investment managers) are concerned to how these loopholes may pose as financial and health risks to the public in the future.

Hazardous nanotechnologies – Watch video highlighting regulatory flaws here:

The consumer group ‘Which?’ have also highlighted their concerns, in a statement they said that companies are not declaring their use of nanoparticles, especially in beauty produce and sun-creams.

Silver Nanoparticles

Since it was introduced in th 1980’s – nanotechnology usage has increased rapidly over the years where approximately two million tons are used by hundreds of manufacturers in various produce such as car tyres, sports clothing, medicines, beauty creams, and food. For instance – one of its growing usages is in the form of ‘Nano Silver’ which is used in sports clothing to kill off odour producing bacteria, but research tests have concluded that this particular substance; when released into the environment, during laundering, is more toxic than bleach.

Clinical studies show that nanoparticles are harmful to human cells.

For instance – researcher ‘Wendelin Stark’, chemical engineer, ‘Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’, Zurich, tested 7 predominantly used nanoparticles, for their known toxic or non-toxic compounds. Stark and his colleagues discovered that iron oxide nanoparticles appeared astonishingly toxic, so toxic that Stark compared them to the same toxicity as the crocidolite asbestos toward human cells. Also zinc oxide nanoparticles reduced cell proliferation far more potently than asbestos did in rodent cells.

Nanotubes have been found by scientists to resemble asbestos fibres in their structure and respiratory health effects. Lung damage is the foremost concern surrounding nanotechnology, as research studies have shown that most nanoparticles migrate to the lungs and have a toxic affect, – thus triggering a programmed cell death known as ‘autophagic cell death’. ‘Carbon nanotubes’ are another type of nanotechnology, and tests have concluded that some forms of these materials can cause granulomas in the mesothelium (a membrane that forms the lining of several body cavities) in laboratory animals. Polypoid granulomas attach to the bronchiolar wall and are known to be precursors of mesothelioma, predominantly caused by exposure to asbestos. Research has found that long thin carbon nanotubes presented the same ill -effects as long thin asbestos fibres, for instance – chrysotile.

Future ill-effects of nanotechnology

Whether other body organs could be affected by nanotechnology has not yet been investigated. And while nanotechnology has had some promising health benefits such as the use of magnetic nano-particles to improve kidney dialysis processes and nanoparticles to combat ovarian cancer – will it do far more harm than good to human kind in the future?

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