An article in the Houston Chronicle ("Nanotech encounters new barrier: Environmental risks rise as costs decline", by Eric Berger, 11 December 2001) provides brief coverage of the workshop on "Nanotechnology and Environment: An Examination of the Potential Benefits and Perils of an Emerging Technology" held by the Rice University Energy and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI), which co-sponsored the workshop with the Office for Science and Technology of the French Embassy USA. Rice hosted the workshop in affiliation with its new Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN).
According to the article, "Scientists working in the realm of the ultra-small are concerned about the artificial material becoming an environmental pollutant. During a conference Monday at Rice University, nearly a dozen scientists spoke of nanotechnology's potential environmental risks, such as increasing the amount of pesticides a fish might ingest." The article consistently refers to possible nanotechnology devices as "the material", as if it were a single uniform substance . . . (sigh). The article did include some interesting quotes that highlight the current lack of knowledge on the possible environmental impacts of nanotechnology:
- "This is the Darth Vader side of nanotechnology," said Rice professor Richard Smalley, a nanotech booster, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in the field. "It is conceivable that some variance of the nanotechnology we will make will have a very nasty future. There will be all sorts of applications in nature, either wittingly or unwittingly."
- "Is this the dark side of nanotechnology?" asked Rice University bioengineering professor Jennifer West. "Hopefully there's nothing we'll find that we can't overcome. However, there really hasn't been enough research done to know what the biological impact of nanoindustry will be."
[Note: The Houston Chronicle cuts off access after a certain period. If the above link is broken, the article is also available on the Hoovers News website.]