Nanotech consumer products inventory launched

The Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies has launched a product database currently listing over 200 consumer products identified by their manufacturers as using nanotechnnology. A 10-page initial analysis is available (1.1 MB pdf).

David Forman commented in Small Times Direct, the email service from Small Times magazine: “On the safety front, note that the Wilson Center released a nano product list today. The list could serve their purposes of encouraging discussion about safety and environmental impacts. But at the same time, I can’t help but think this effort will simultaneously muddy the waters. The benefits and risks are quite different for nanoscale processing than they are for nanomaterials. Will the lay audience make the distinction? And what’s a consumer product anyway? If you’re going to list the iMac because its CPU is made using a 65 nanometer process — and you’re going to include Intel’s and AMD’s CPUs because they are also made using sub-100 nanometer processes — then don’t you have to include every single PC or laptop on the market that uses one of these chips? We also have to consider how the “nano” label is used. The Wilson Center says that every product in the list is ‘manufacturer-identified.’ Trouble with that is that there are plenty of companies that will call something ‘nano’ to benefit from the buzz. We’ve been weeding them out of our pages for years. In short, this list is interesting, but as Oregon’s Safer Nano 2006 conference on Monday and Tuesday shows, the discussion it’s intended to promote is already well under way.”

The Washington Post commented: “Perhaps most surprising, the list contains several products meant to be eaten — a step up from the kind of exposure that has drawn attention to date, namely nanoparticle-laden cosmetics and sunscreens that some fear could cause harm if absorbed through the skin.”

My comments: First, as the Wilson Center points out, the current list is not comprehensive. If you use the 1-100 nm definition for nanotech — as many or even most do in business — this list would include a huge variety of products made using molecules/particles/features in this size range. Second, given this fact, does it make sense to group such products together? [This concern may lessen as the database grows.] Third, one wonders whether those in charge of marketing these products are now glad or sorry to have used the nano label. And finally, the chocolate chewing gum contains nanoscale crystals, but of what? —Christine

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