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Regulating Nanotechnology In Cleansers 65

Posted by Zonk
from the don't-let-it-inside-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes to mention a Washington Post article about new EPA regulations on nanotech in cleaners. Nanoparticles are now used to do everything from waterproofing pants to making faster-burning rocket fuel, but one of the most common new applications is their use in household cleaners. The EPA is handing down new regulations saying that these silver-coated nanoparticles have to be safe for the environment. Their concerns stem from the fact that a large majority of cleansers, eventually, end up in large bodies of water. From the article: "Silver can kill microbes even in bulk form but is more efficient as nanoparticles. Nanosilver also can be easily incorporated into a variety of products, such as food containers and shoe liners. That characteristic has made it the most common type of nanomaterial marketed to consumers, according to a database of about 350 nanoproducts maintained by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Nanosilver has also been added to bandages to speed healing. That use and others in which the particles are applied to the body are regulated not by the EPA but by the Food and Drug Administration, which is currently considering whether it needs new rules for nanoproducts."
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Regulating Nanotechnology In Cleansers

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  • by 0jjjjjjjjjj0 (1024211) on Friday November 24, 2006 @01:45PM (#16976178) Homepage Journal
    From the article ...
    Jones said the final rules will be spelled out in the Federal Register sometime in the next few months. He acknowledged, however, that the EPA oversight will apply only to products advertised as germ-killing -- a detail that at least one major retailer has apparently noted.

    The Sharper Image, which until recently advertised as anti-microbial several products containing nanosilver, has dropped all such references from its marketing materials.


    So the companies that want to get around this only have to change how they market their products? Sounds like an effective use of government time/money to me.

    It should be all or nothing - you're controlling/monitoring all these nanosilver-based products, or none. It's like Australia's GST - it's applicable on all items - well, except healthcare, some foods (eg, orange juice is GST-free if purchased "to go" yet incurs the 10% tax if consumed in-store), international travel, and anything else the government of the day wanted to exclude.

    Exclusions like this make for an impractical management model which requires constant updating and refinement. The result? Companies say "I didn't know about that change to the law" and get off lightly.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      The Sharper Image, which until recently advertised as anti-microbial several products containing nanosilver, has dropped all such references from its marketing materials.

      So the companies that want to get around this only have to change how they market their products? Sounds like an effective use of government time/money to me.

      Huh? If they can't prove the stuff is antimicrobial, they shouldn't be allowed to advertise it as such. Sounds good to me.

  • I guess those silver coins we once had through 1964 were a pretty good idea after all. Couldn't pass infections through the money supply very easily that way.
    • by cp.tar (871488)

      IIRC, microbes can't survive on bronze, either... that's why bronze doorknobs are not a bad thing at all.

      Please correct me if it isn't bronze; I may have translated it wrongly.

    • And Copper coins too (Score:2, Informative)

      by ndg123 (801212)
      Copper is a pretty good antiseptic to, though obviously a bit expensive these days.
    • In fact, I have just bought an in-water external radiator for my boat and it is made of copper nickel alloy with silver solder. Although it is more expensive than stainless steel, the claimed benefit is that it does not suffer from fouling because algae and invertebrates will not attach.

      I'll report back in five years as to whether it is true or not - if I'm still around, and if Slashdot is still around.

      • by geekoid (135745)
        but what can happen is a the nonorganic material gets stuck, and then things begin to grow on that.
  • by zcubed (916242) on Friday November 24, 2006 @01:57PM (#16976308)
    Someone needs to coat keyboards and mice with these nanosilver particles since I have to touch so many at work.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:09PM (#16976430) Homepage

    Releasing nanoparticles of an elemental metal into water may not be a good idea. Unless there's some chemical or biological process in the ecosystem that reliably prevents this stuff from building up over time, it's not good.

    It's a real problem. Carbon nanotubes are both toxic and non-biodegradable. [i-sis.org.uk] Yet their Material Safety Data Sheet [cnanotech.com] doesn't recognize this at all.

    The form of the tubes matters. Toxicity comes from the loose carbon bonds at the ends. This can't be treated casually; it needs to be better understood.

    • by eric76 (679787)
      My first question is whether we'll see an increase in argyria.

      Argyria is a non-health threatening medical condition resulting from the ingestion of silver that turns the skin greyish.

      It would be great for Halloween, but not the rest of the year.
      • by Dunbal (464142)
        Argyria is a non-health threatening medical condition

        WRONG. You can DIE from Argyria. You have been misinformed. Oh sure, most people stop using silver salts when they start turning blue - and thus the disease is limited to the skin. But persistent use of silver can cause: coagulation disorders leading to potentially fatal hemorrhage, chronic kidney failure, fatty changes in the liver, kidney and heart, mucosal irritation leading to chronic bronchitis and/or diarrhea, neurological prob
        • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
          Silver Nitrate lo and behold - this stuff kills neurons) that affect fine motor coordination, night vision, taste. It can also cause seizures, and respiratory paralysis.

          Not saying that colloidal silver is safe, but AFAIK, colloidal silver is small particles of elemental silver suspended in water. Silver nitrate is an ionic compound containing silver (Ag) that dissociates to form Ag+ and NO3- ions in water. Saying that silver is toxic because silver nitrate is would be like saying that hydrogen is toxic

          • by Dunbal (464142)
            colloidal silver is small particles of elemental silver suspended in water.

                  And what happens to that elemental silver when you mix it with 1 molar HCl, which is what you have in your stomach? It's silver SALTS that are toxic. Elemental silver is not known to be toxic.
    • Westminister buckyballs had the same issues. When they were discovered they were going to be used for all sorts of medical applications.. with all that molecular space they could be used to hold several molecules of cutting edge drugs. When they tested it on the usual mice, they all got tissue damage and some got cancer because the buckyballs didn't break down as planned... they were so tough and so small they would literally cut right thru cell walls destroying things instead of helping. Sounds like the
    • by khallow (566160)
      I don't know of any metal that isn't soluble in water at those particle sizes. Even gold is though I gather it would take considerable time for gold nanoparticles to dissolve. I think an acidic environment would rapidly hasten this process. The question would then be if the nanoparticles dissolve in water faster than they are introduced?
  • Silverado (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    Pure silver is not toxic to humans, but some chemicals containing silver can be very harmful [wikipedia.org]. Nanoscopic particles might have different lifecycles in the complex univers of human biochemistry, producing those dangerous chemicals, or others not previously seen. These new delivery methods must be tested before being assumed safe.
  • Silver plated bacteria.... Pretty.
  • We need the EPA to OK the use of nanoparticles in cleaning agents, and yet, diesel engines spew out metric tons of organic nanoparticles on a daily basis. It seems a bit ironic.

    • We need the EPA to OK the use of nanoparticles in cleaning agents, and yet, diesel engines spew out metric tons of organic nanoparticles on a daily basis.

      I'm with ya brother. These bastards at EPA have been doing the same thing for YEARS with macro-particles. Lead is all regulated up the ass.. You can't put it in paint, it's been taken out of gasoline, etc. And yet every winter the city is allowed to just dump sand around the streets!

      I mean, all macro-particles are equal right? We all know that when tw
  • These products are useful and help people. But they seem high-tech and hard to understand.

    My prediction:

    Some publicity-seeking scientist will figure out a way to kill an animal with these materials in some unrealistically large dose or something like that. There will be press reports about the "hidden danger" of these products lurking in your home. The Sierra Club will issue a press release about these products.

    Protests. California will ban them. Then they'll get taken off the market.

    The actual facts w
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "These products are useful and help people. But they seem high-tech and hard to understand."

      Glad you're here to clear that up. There I was expecting some dreadful scientific inquiry, with experiments and all that gobbledygook, but thankfully your assertion has obviated such a necessity. Kohath proclaims: "these products are useful and help people."

      "Some publicity-seeking scientist will figure out a way to kill an animal with these materials in some unrealistically large dose or something like that. There
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by Kohath (38547)
        There I was expecting some dreadful scientific inquiry, with experiments and all that gobbledygook, but thankfully your assertion has obviated such a necessity. Kohath proclaims: "these products are useful and help people."

        Yeah. I guess you live in a world where people spend the time and money to invent things and routinely use things that aren't "useful" and don't "help people".

        Proclaiming something as useful and helpful because people use it for their benefit is such a ridiculous stretch. What was I th
  • colloidal silver!? (Score:2, Informative)

    by kurthr (30155)
    They're going to regulate a common substance (colloidal silver) that's been around and caused no problem (other than gun metal gray skin) in humans consuming it daily at high concentrations? I don't think it's a miracle cure, but it's been used as a mild disinfectant to treat burns and non-potable water for over a hundred years. Come on, if you're worried about Argyria you can't be that worried about toxicity.
    http://homepages.together.net/~rjstan/index.html [together.net]

    Silver is highly reactive (with oxygen) so with suc
  • NEW Technology? (Score:2, Insightful)

    How about photographic prints? THEY also contain silver "nano-particles!"
  • Up with bacteria! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Friday November 24, 2006 @05:13PM (#16978052)
    Overuse of cleaners and germicidals may actually be a problem, and not in the way that you'd think. The more pathogens we kill, the less we're exposed to on a regular basis. And our immune system needs regular exposure to bugs to stay "in shape" and also to develop antibodies that may be useful against stronger bugs. Unless you're HIV+ or otherwise immunocompromised, you don't need all surfaces in your home or even in your kitchen to be perfectly germ-free.

    -b.

  • Since when... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Friday November 24, 2006 @05:20PM (#16978094) Homepage
    Since when did we start calling "grit", "nanoparticles"? This is just silver dust being put in cleansers... so the particles are small? So what? Is this the latest "cool fad"?

    I suppose my dog no longer leaves puppy bombs in the back yard... they're just massive piles of millions of "nanopoop".
    • by cgenman (325138)
      They're nanopoop if they're small enough to pass through your vaccuum cleaner's filter.

  • A major concern is what happens when the nanosubstance enters the body with the ability to traverse the cellular wall. Check out some of the articles [google.com] on nanoparticles in cosmetics and tanning solutions.

    We recently had to replace a washing machine. The salesman was touting the LG model that is lined with nanosilver, claimed as bacteriocidal. When I pointed out that substances that otherwise might be more or less safe take on different bioactive properties when in nano form, the salesman became very concerne
  • The EPA is going to find it very difficult to regulate products containing engineered nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are present in many organic compounds, many manufacturers hide the fact that their products contain nanoparticles, and even defining what constitutes them can be difficult. And yet, consumers are quick to blame unfamiliar technologies, as when over 100 people were treated for respiratory problems after using Magic Nano cleanser [nanotechbuzz.com]. As it turned out there was no nano in Magic Nano, but that didn't

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