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Nanoscale silver: No silver lining?
Date:9/9/2008

not assume that because nano is new, we have no scientific basis for managing risks," says Dr. Samuel N. Luoma, the author of the PEN report Silver Nanotechnologies and The Environment: Old Problems or New Challenges?, which also offers a dozen lessons concerning silver in general that can be followed for managing the potential environmental risks posed by nanosilver. "Our existing knowledge of silver in the environment provides a starting point for some assessments, and points toward some of the new questions raised by the unique properties for nanoparticles that need to be addressed through new research."

The mass of silver dispersed to the environment from new products could be substantial if one product, or a combination of such products, becomes widespread.

"The silver that went into wastewaters when millions of people had their photographs developed taught us that small additions of silver to the environment make a big difference," says Dr. Luoma, a former senior researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey who now leads science policy coordination for the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Davis. "Perhaps more significant, we have no means of detecting nanosilver in the environment once it is released, even if concentrations rise to levels that are toxic to aquatic ecosystems."

The U.S. federal government has invested only a small percentage of its overall nanotechnology research funding in understanding the risks posed by nanomaterials, according to an analysis conducted earlier this year by PEN (http://www.nanotechproject.org/news/archive/ehs-update/), further highlighting the need for more research on the potential risks posed by nanomaterials. In addition, laws and institutions shaped in the mid-20th Century are not likely to succeed in addressing 21st-Century problems.

"Silver is an old problem, and nanosi
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Contact: Colin Finan
colin.finan@wilsoncenter.org
202-691-4321
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
Source:Eurekalert

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