American scientists said recently the application of nanotechnology could affect human health as nanometer scale particles can easily penetrate the human body and may cause diseases. Meanwhile Chinese scientists say this negative aspect of nanotechnology should not be exaggerated.
Several years ago, the terms "nanometer", "nanoscience" and "nanomaterial" sounded quite strange to ordinary people in China. Nowadays, you can easily pick up such words from the radio, TV, newspapers and even the chat of pensioners and children.
When people begin to enjoy the advantages brought about by nanotechnology, such as new cosmetics and textiles, a laboratory test carried out by American scientists gave a "yellow light" to nano research. The test showed nano particles can enter animal brains along with brain cells and remain there.
Dr. Jiang Lei, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has been engaged in the research of nanotechnology for years. He says the test result is one-sided.
"Nano particles do exist and can easily penetrate into the respiratory tract and skin of human beings. But there is also a question of quantity. How many such particles could affect human health? At the present no scientists anywhere are able to answer this."
Dr. Jiang Lei also tells us how to protect ourselves in nano research.
"In the course of research, we can try our best to avoid the presence of nano-scale objects in particle form. However in the liquid or solid states they are unable to penetrate human bodies."
In addition, as Dr. Jiang Lei says, scientists can take other measures such as wearing protective clothing and masks when undertaking nanotechnology research.
As for the nano-products, scientists say those now on the Chinese market have all passed the relevant quality examinations. They should not present threats to human health, so people needn't worry too much about that.
Nevertheless, scientists also note scientific advances are often double edged swords. Nanotechnology is no exception. The security problems associated with nano research should not be neglected either.
(CRI January 13, 2004)