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Nanocosmetics Used Since Ancient Egypt 252

Roland Piquepaille writes "French researchers have found that Egyptians, Greek and Romans were using nanotechnology to dye their hair several thousands years ago. Nanowerk Spotlight reports they were using lead compounds which generated lead sulfide (PbS) nanocrystals with a diameter of only 5 nanometers. At a moment where many people wonder if the use of nanoparticles is safe, it's good to know that nanotechnology has been widely used for a very long time."
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Nanocosmetics Used Since Ancient Egypt

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @05:51PM (#16055581)
    ...that doesn't mean they were doing so *safely*. We don't know the health risks ourselves now, let alone what health problems the Egyptians, Greeks or Romans experienced - hence this is completely irrelevant.
  • by infolib ( 618234 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @07:02PM (#16056060)
    At a moment where many people wonder if the use of nanoparticles is safe, it's good to know that nanotechnology has been widely used for a very long time

    Ok, all the comments about lead-not-safe and this-isn't-nanotech aside, I think there's something to be said for regulating compounds differently based on particle size.

    We do know that some substances changes chemical properties depending on their particle size. We also haven't yet researched the health risks of nanotubes very well, but I think we should do so before spreading tons of the little critters around in field emission displays []. They might be quite hard to clean up after the fact.

    This is not a call for "safety above all" - it's just an appeal to consider what is already known. (A comparison with cell phones, for instance, would show that cell phone frequencies are by known physics very unlikely to influence chemical reactions beyond thermal effects, hence allowing them per default is quite sensible).

    Oh, and why did I write "nanotech" instead of nanotech? Because the term has become a buzzword so broad as to be almost meaningless, not least because thousands of labs have gained access to funding by putting a "Nanotech lab" sign on the door while continuing their usual work. (My place is partly like that). So be careful when using the term "nanotech" - it might mean vastly different things to different people and the ambiguity is being exploited.
  • by acherusia ( 995492 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @09:33PM (#16056717)

    Ignoring the whole nanoparticle issue for the obvious absurdity, people have been using unsafe items to make themselves more attractive since the first monkey noticed how luxurious his fur was when he ate arsenic.

    A brief list of methods used to enhance appearance that cause long-term damage:

    • Belladonna - used to enlarge women's pupils, and make their eyes seem more attractive
    • Arsenic - used to enhance hair and weight gain (since in most societies where food isn't readily available, being fat is a sign of beauty)
    • Mercury - used to make women paler
    • Corsets - used to enhance the appearance of women's waists
    • Foot-binding - used because apparently women who can't walk were considered attractive at some point.
    • Tattoos - not that dangerous now, but considering that previously they were dealing with completely unsterilized needles, and possibly unwashed/unhealthy person, large tattoos were bloody risky
    • Lead - used in lots of cosmetics, from creams to eyeshadows, to whatever.
    • Antimony - used as eyeshadow
    • Bleeding oneself - One way to stay pale was to bleed yourself. Yes, people have been that desperate to be pretty

    And we're supposed to entertain the idea that the Egyptians using nanoparticles in cosmetics is somehow a sign of safety. I have just one question. What the hell are you smoking?

  • Re:Smoking... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by e4g4 ( 533831 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @11:21PM (#16057108)

    The parent has a very good (though slightly off topic) point. The primary carcinogens in tobacco (and marijuana) are those that manifest themselves as particulate carbon based compounds (the same kind of thing that is carcinogenic in many things that have been exposed to a flame: burned, charred, and blackened food included (yes, even that delicious blackened cajun catfish) and the posited (and confirmed) carginogenic properties of many modern nanotech manufacturing biproducts (and primary products, for that matter)). I personally am waiting for the time when both tobacco cigarettes and pot are sold in small, self-contained cigarette-like vaporizers (assuming the Rockefeller drug laws truly and officially fade into the sunset). Once that happens, the only health risk of cigarettes will be heart disease (from the nicotine), but that risk, statistically, will be no worse than a moderate coffee habit (caffeine can cardiac arythmia and other heart conditions, as can nicotine).

    The real barrier to entry in this "health conscious" tobacco product market is the tech - at the moment, an effective vaporizer will cost you at least $200, and requires a 110V electric socket - I, being rather far removed from this kind of technology (i'm a CS guy), wonder what it would take to make portable, battery (or chemically) powered vaporizers possible.

    As a tobacco smoker, I anticipate (and quite reasonably forsee) the invention of the cancer free cigarette. It's quite reasonable to assume that the tobacco companies are working on something, based on tobacco, that is addictive because of its nicotine, but because of its delivery method or chemical make-up, does not cause about a cash cow, and imagine the marketing campaign...("Cancer free Marlboro's - all the smooth flavor with none of the guilt")

    As a pot smoker (and college student), I'm saving my money to buy a digitally controlled vaporizer (as anything else is essentially worthless, at least as far as reducing carcinogens is concerned).

    Just to continue this thought, for all of those out there that are curious about the effects of man's second best friend, marijuana, (it's been used for various reasons in various cultures for at least as long as the domesticated dog), but are concerned about the carcinogenic effects of smoking it, the healthiest way to consume it is ingestion. Just cook up 1-2 grams of midgrade marijuana per 3 - 4 tablespoons of butter or vegetable oil or olive oil (depending upon what the recipe requires)i n a pan at low-medium heat, until the marjuana is a golden brown, filter out the solid remnants of the plant, and using the same volume of the remaining filtered butter/oil that any given recipe calls for (as long as it requires fatty substances such as oil or butter) for a deliciously intoxicating (and in no way carcinogencic - assuming you don't burn it) treat.

    To wrap this comment up - and bring it back on topic, consider this to be a minor insight on how to improve upon (without negating the benefits of) an unhealthy practice which the human race has been doing for thousands of years, as opposed to softening the perception of the dangers of nanomaterials by citing the ubiquitous and unquestionably bad, uninformed practices of an ancient (and quite dead) civilization.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!