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Nanotechnology criticised for environmentally unfriendly nature

By Katie Bird , 17-Nov-2010
Last updated on 17-Nov-2010 at 13:09 GMT2010-11-17T13:09:57Z

Friends of the Earth has criticised nanotechnology and the use of nanomaterials as it claims the products are more environmentally costly to produce and use.

In a recent report from the environmental group entitled ‘Nanotechnology, climate and energy: over-heated promises and hot air?’ it highlights a number of products including nano-titanium dioxide and nano-silver claiming that their production is very energy intensive.

Nano-titanium dioxide is often used in sunscreen products as a UV filter, as the smaller particle size can help improve protection from UV rays as well as increasing spreadability and nano silver is used in many consumer and household goods, including some cosmetics and personal care products, as an antimicrobial ingredient.

According to the report, the production of titanium dioxide nanoparticles results in 3-6 times more carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per kg than bulk titanium dioxide. In addition, Friends of the Earth claims its production can use up to 60kWh of energy per kg.

Nano-silver and greenhouse gases

For nano-silver, the organisation highlights its end of life as being problematic.

It references research that suggests exposing sludge similar to that found in waste water treatment plants to nano-silver particles led to a significant increase in the release of nitrous oxide.

The report explained that nitrous oxide is designated as a potent greenhouse gas and according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it is 310 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere when compared to carbon dioxide over a 100 year period.

According to the organisation, the public should be made aware that avoiding products containing nano-silver could reduce their carbon foot print.

Nano-silver was recently highlighted by the German Institute for Risk Assessment as having ‘no place’ in cosmetics, but on safety rather than environmental grounds.

The Institue claimed that there is insufficient evidence upon which to make an informed judgment about the potential health risks of these materials.

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