What Can Be Done
There appears to be no easy solution to the potential toxicity associated with nanotechnology. However, history would indicate that if government and industry can take proactive measures to steward these materials through consumer markets, then adverse human, environmental, and economic consequences from the past might be avoided and commercial benefits can be realized. Specifically, education and training on the effects of nanoparticles are crucial for industry to set a lifecycle plan for their products and for regulatory groups to make sound scientific decisions. In doing so, industry will avoid potential risk and promote safe commercialization. Consumers can also check products for nanotechnology ingredients or contact the manufacturer of the products they are questioning.
That sounds like good advice. But regulation may not be the sole answer. After all, regulation is typically designed to hinder rather than to enhance. Dr. Ralph Merkle sees it this way:
"Today's manufacturing methods are very crude at the molecular level. Casting, grinding, milling and even lithography move atoms in great thundering statistical herds. It's like trying to make things out of LEGO blocks with boxing gloves on your hands. Yes, you can push the LEGO blocks into great heaps and pile them up, but you can't really snap them together the way you'd like.
In the future, nanotechnology will let us take off the boxing gloves. We'll be
able to snap together the fundamental building blocks of nature easily, inexpensively
and in most of the ways permitted by the laws of physics. This will be essential
if we are to continue the revolution in computer hardware beyond about the next
decade, and will also let us fabricate an entire new generation of products that
are cleaner, stronger, lighter, and more precise."
5. Nanotechnology http://www.zyvex.com/nano/ accessed 6/4/09