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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Nanotechnology: Spray Containing Nanoparticles May Cause Medical Problems

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) issued a warning against using a household product containing nanoparticles that has led to what is apparently the first recall of a nanotechnology-based product. In a period of less than two weeks, regional poison control centers in Germany received about 80 reports of people coughing or complaining of fever and headache, and several people were hospitalized with pulmonary edema, after using "Magic Nano" surface-sealing sprays.

Cleaning-roduct manufacturer Kleinmann GmbH, which packages and sells the sprays, quickly withdrew aerosol formulations that also contain a propellant and warned against their further use. The company has sold the products in pump bottles for more than two years and has had no reports of problems. The sprays are designed for treating glass and ceramic surfaces to make them water- and dirt-repellant for easier cleaning.

Magic Nano products contain silica and silicone nanoparticles as well as ethanol, water, and other ingredients, according to the poison control center GIZ-Nord. Although Kleinmann did not name specific suppliers involved, it has partnered with nanomaterial producer Nanopool, along with companies spun off from the Institute for New Materials in Saarbrucken.

The Washington Post has this to say:

As the U.S. economy strides into the age of nanotechnology, thousands of workers like these are participants in a seat-of-the-pants occupational health experiment.

No state or federal worker-protection rules address the specific risks of nanomaterials, even though many laboratory and animal studies have shown that nano-size particles -- those on the order of a millionth of a millimeter -- spur peculiar biological reactions and can be far more toxic than larger granules of the same chemicals.

Regulators say they need more data before setting standards. But of the $1.2 billion the government has proposed spending on its National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2007 -- a research funding program to help jump-start the promising sector -- only about two-tenths of 1 percent is earmarked to study workplace safety issues

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