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May 28th, 2008
Mounting concern and new scientific evidence that nanoparticles could threaten human health are ratcheting up the pressure on European officials to produce regulations governing the use of the technology.
Nanoparticles are molecules of usually harmless substances that have been manipulated into special shapes to give them desirable properties such as strength or flexibility.
Companies already sell hundreds of products containing nanomaterials and say they believe these products are safe. But a major study released this month found that at least one nanomaterial, carbon nanotubes, appears to mimic the behavior of cancer-causing asbestos in the lung.
Critics of the industry say nanotechnology companies have little safety data about their products that addresses the unique health concerns raised by nanotechnology. "Research and business communities continue to invest heavily in carbon nanotubes for a wide range of products under the assumption that they are no more hazardous than graphite," the researchers wrote in their study, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. "Our results suggest the need for further research and great caution before introducing such products into the market if long-term harm is to be avoided."
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