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Nanotechnology is here!


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http://www.latimes.com/media/acrobat/2006-06/23697430.pdf

 

Science's Tiny, Big Unknown

Nanotechnology may revolutionize our lives. The first generation of engineered products has reached consumers, and with them come hard questions about safety.

By Charles Piller

Times Staff Writer

 

June 1, 2006

 

Magic Nano was billed as a miraculous solution for household drudgery, able to repel dirt and moisture from bathroom surfaces through the wonders of nanotechnology.

 

Instead, the spray-on ceramic sealant quickly has become an emblem of the growing global fears over incorporating artificial particles tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair into such everyday products as golf balls, sunscreen and clothing.

 

Three days after Magic Nano went on sale in Europe in March, it was pulled from store shelves because at least 110 customers reported symptoms including racking coughs, chest pain and difficulty breathing.

 

"When I started to feel dizzy and nauseous, I got scared," said Carola Sennmann, a 37-year-old hairdresser in the German city of Goettingen, who felt flu-like symptoms within 30 minutes of spraying Magic Nano in her shower.

 

When she began to gasp for breath, she was rushed to the emergency room and suffered a sleepless, fevered night before the symptoms subsided. Doctors were baffled. Sennmann, though, had her own diagnosis: "I blame it on nanotechnology."

 

Last week, German regulators released tests that showed Magic Nano contained no nanoparticles. The product was designed to deposit an oil- and-water-repellent nano-thin film composed of silicon dioxide, but lab tests have yet to verify that property.

 

Experts still don't know what caused the illnesses in a case that highlights the murky definitions and poorly understood risks in one of the fastest-growing segments of science and technology.

 

"So the speculation begins," said Andrew Maynard, chief scientist of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "This is the great danger

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