Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology works with materials, devices, and other structures with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. Quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale. With a variety of potential applications, nanotechnology is a key technology for the future and governments have invested billions of dollars in its research. Through its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the USA has invested 3.7 billion dollars. The European Union has invested 1.2 billion and Japan 750 million dollars.However, like every powerful new technology, there are dangers.
According to a report by Chinese researchers in August 19th,2009, seven young women suffered permanent lung damage after working without proper protection measures in a nano paint factory for several months, including two deaths.
This study was the first to record impairment on human health by nanoparticles and there were past studies showing that nanoparticles can damage the lungs of rats. After examination of the workplace of these women workers and their bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, pleural effusion and lung biopsy, particles with 30nm diameters were tested. At the electron microscope, the distribution of these particles in the cytoplasm, nucleus and cytoplasm of lung epithelial and mesothelial cells with Lung epithelial cells curled, showing apoptotic morphology. By checking, all cases were excluded from the possibility of infection, cancer, immune-related diseases, etc.. Taking into account that the pathological changes of the patient is similar with the animal nanosubstance, besides nanoparticles were found in the patient’s bronchial and lung tissue, suggesting that disease manifestations and pathological changes in these patients may be related with nanoparticles in the factory. According to the article published on “European Respiratory journals” by SongYuguo, a doctor in occupational disease and clinical poisoning sector of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital:These cases give people a warning, in the absence of protective measures, long-term exposure at the environment full of nanoparticles might be harmful to human lungs,but an U.S. government expert said the study only can prove that nanoparticles may have industrial hazards, there was no clear evidence that nanoparticles posed a graver threat to human beings than other chemicals.
Scientists debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in medicine, electronics, biomaterials and energy production. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials, and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios.