Washington, DC Widespread use of nanoscale silver will challenge regulatory agencies to balance important potential benefits against the possibility of significant environmental risk, highlighting the need to identify research priorities concerning this emerging technology, according to a new report released today by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN).
But existing information about the impact of silver on the environment offers a starting point for some assessments of nanosilver, the report argues. See www.nanotechproject.org/n/silver to obtain a copy of the report.
The issue of assessing the risks posed by nanoscale silver was highlighted after the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) San Francisco office earlier this year imposed a landmark fine of over $200,000 on a California company selling computer keyboards and mouses coated with nanosilver. EPA issued the fine on the grounds that the products should have been registered under federal pesticide law because of the company's germ-killing claims.
Similar fines have not been imposed since, but the action is increasing attention on the potential risks posed by nanoscale silver and oversight of nanotechnology as a whole. There currently are more than 200 manufacturer-identified nanosilver products on the market and contained in the online nanotechnology consumer products inventory maintained by PEN everything from baby carriages and air filters to athletic socks and coin-operated washing machines. See www.nanotechproject.org/consumer to search the inventory.
Silver itself is classified as an environmental hazard by EPA because it is more toxic to aquatic plants and animals than any metal except mercury. Even if a nanoparticle itself is not especially toxic, silver nanoparticles increase the effectiveness of delivering toxic silver ions to locations where they can cause toxicity.
|Contact: Colin Finan|
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies