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Letter Regarding the Potential Toxicities of Nanotechnology

Small and Dangerous

This letter appeared in The Washington Post on February 5, 2005, p. A18

Rick Weiss highlighted the exciting medical potential of nanotechnology [“Nanomedicine’s Promise Is Anything but Tiny,” news story, Jan. 31], but only briefly mentions nanomedicine’s potential toxicities.

In preliminary studies, carbon nanotubes have been shown to cause lung inflammation in animals and cell damage in cultured human skin cells. Another study showed that fullerenes, which are nanoscale molecules with great potential as drug-delivery devices because they can pass the body’s defense barriers, can cross into the nervous system of fish and damage their brain cells. The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering recently concluded that “factories and research laboratories [should] treat manufactured nanoparticles and nanotubes as if they were hazardous.”

It is important that safety concerns go hand in hand with the justified enthusiasm for nanomedicine’s potential.

Nicholas Stine
Research Associate

Peter Lurie, M.D., M.P.H.
Deputy Director
Public Citizen’s Health Research Group