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February 9th, 2007
Too often the users of nanoparticles assume that substances that are safe in larger dimensions will present no problems when used in nano applications. But if engineering a substance down to a few nanometers (a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers thick) gives it special features like improved electric conductivity, logic suggests it might also present new threats to the human body.
Two dollar amounts are often cited in the discussion on nanotechnology safety risks. One is the projected value globally of all applications of this technology by 2015: $1 trillion. The other is the estimated $200 billion in death benefits, medical care, cleanup costs and legal fees associated with another miracle material, asbestos. If industry had invested more in investigating the health threat that asbestos fibers posed, thousands of lives and billions of dollars could have been saved.
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