Stories tagged regulation

Feb
22
2012

This article describes the results of a study conducted by the Australian Government, which says some Australians “may be raising their risk of skin cancer by avoiding sunscreen due to unfounded fears over nanoparticles.” The article went on to say that one third of the people surveyed had heard or read about the possible risks of nanoparticles, and that 13% of these people would be less likely to use sunscreen. At first, this seemed like a very interesting finding – people would rank nanoparticles higher than skin cancer on their personal risk meters! But as I examined the article a little more, I realized I have a few issues with the way it presented the results. A Discrete Request for Regulation: The Hoff is on board.
A Discrete Request for Regulation: The Hoff is on board.Courtesy Friends of the Earth Australia

First, the article makes it sound as if survey-takers were faced with the question, “would you rather risk getting skin cancer or use a sunscreen with nanoparticles in it?” In actuality, they were simply asked if they would be less likely to use a nanoparticle-based sunscreen, given the risks they’d heard about. I realize it is implied that if you don’t use sunscreen your chances of getting skin cancer increase, but when taking a survey, you’re probably just answering the question at hand: Would you be less likely to use a product that you’ve heard could by risky. These answers are also coming from a survey that repeatedly mentions the “possible risks of using sunscreen with nanoparticles” in various questions. It seems to me that hula hooping could start to sound risky by the end of a survey like that. “Have you heard or read about the possible risks of hula hooping? If you have heard or read about the possible risks of hula hooping, do the stories make you any less likely to hula hoop in general? Agree or Disagree: 1.) Hula hooping is risky to my health. 2.) Hula hooping is more risky to my health than not hula hooping 3.) I am scared to hula-hoop.” Ok, I exaggerate a little, but the way a survey is presented has an effect on the answers people provide.

I get that they’re trying to highlight the fact that some people perceive nanoparticle-based sunscreens as dangerous, and that’s an interesting finding- not because they would stop using sunscreen, but because the current weight of evidence suggests that the nanoparticles in sunscreens don’t penetrate the skin - they’re harmless to humans. Which brings me to my point that perhaps a more telling result of the study is the high number of people who said they didn’t know if nanoparticle-based sunscreens are risky, and needed more information before deciding whether to use them. The fact that some people perceive nanoparticle-based sunscreens as dangerous when the current scientific evidence suggests otherwise, supports the idea that people just don’t know enough about nanoparticle-based products.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all nanoparticle-based products are safe, across the board. I’m also not trying to downplay people’s concerns about this relatively new technology. In fact, I think a healthy dose of caution is a good thing when it comes to new technologies. I just think that fear comes from not knowing, and people’s concerns could be alleviated if they had more information. What is concerning is that the information isn’t exactly available. There are no regulations on nano products (though the FDA appears to be working on it), companies are not required to label their products as containing nanoparticles, and there are no standards in defining what a nano product is. What I am suggesting is that maybe we should be demanding that information from the likes of industries, governments, policy makers, etc, instead of focusing on the few that perceive nanoparticles as risky.

The point of the study was to figure out the public’s perception of sunscreens that contain nanoparticles, and I think it did. It showed that the public doesn’t know enough about it to make any real/informed decisions.

What’s your take? How do you feel about nanoparticles being used in products you rely on every day? What do you think about regulating this technology? Creating standards for it? Do you think these regulations and standards would stifle scientific progress, or protect our health? What do you think about hula hooping?

Jul
25
2010

Slow boat to China: Cargo ships are cutting their sailing speeds to reduce costs.
Slow boat to China: Cargo ships are cutting their sailing speeds to reduce costs.Courtesy mikebaird

Save 40% on fuel costs by slowing down 20%

Slower speeds also reduce pollution. Too bad that is not why the shipping companies are slowing down. The tough economic times has forced many to think of ways to cut costs.

$100 million in fuel savings

It is believed that Maersk, the world's largest shipping line, with more than 600 ships has saved more than $100 million on fuel since it began its go-slow policy. Instead of the standard 25 knots to 20 knots, some container ships are slowing down to 12 knots (about 14 mph). This is slower than the speed of sailing clippers such as the Cutty Sark more than 130 years ago.

Works for cars and trucks, too

Driving too fast or rapid acceleration wastes money.

You can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town.
You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas. fueleconomy.gov

There should be a law

Saving money and reducing pollution should be a no-brainer but people with too much money often choose to speed. I think slowing down should be mandatory.

Learn more about speed vs saving

Source Modern cargo ships slow to the speed of the sailing clippers The Guardian

Nov
04
2008

Yellowstone snowmobiles: A guide leads a pack of snowmobiles through Yellowstone National Park on a recent winter trip.
Yellowstone snowmobiles: A guide leads a pack of snowmobiles through Yellowstone National Park on a recent winter trip.Courtesy National Park Service
A federal judge is working through proposals that would lower the number of snowmobiles that can zip through Yellowstone National Park each year. And as seems to be the case with conflicting ideas over uses of public recreational lands, there are lots of ideas on what the optimum level should be. You can get the full details here.

The newest plan would lower the current snowmobile limits by 40 percent, or 318 snowmobiles a day. That’s a little more than the average of 294 snowmobiles per day the park saw last year, but significantly lower than the 557 that were in the highest daily number recorded last winter.

Pristine snow blanket: Environmental purists want winter in Yellowstone to look more like this without snowmobile noise, exhaust or tracks.
Pristine snow blanket: Environmental purists want winter in Yellowstone to look more like this without snowmobile noise, exhaust or tracks.Courtesy Apollomelos
The judge has been drawn into the debate between environmentalists who want no or minimal snowmobile presence in the park versus snowmobile enthusiasts who enjoy motoring through the picturesque park. Snowmobile limits for the park haven’t been adjusted in 28 years.

What role, if any, do you think snowmobiles should have in a national park like Yellowstone? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Nov
27
2006

Robin Low: What will he think about new regulations?  Robin Low makes textiles using nanotechnology.  Ask him what he thinks about these new regulations.
Robin Low: What will he think about new regulations? Robin Low makes textiles using nanotechnology. Ask him what he thinks about these new regulations.

Nanotechnology research is kicking into full gear the world over but almost everyone agrees that we simply don't know how to properly regulate its use. What will particles billions of times smaller than a meter do to our bodies and the environment? Well...they might cure our cancers and clean up our water. But they also might penetrate our blood brain barriers and stick in our gray matter or cause ecosystems to decline due to tiny tiny pollutants.

EPA takes a step in the right direction

Well, at least our government is beginning to look at this stuff. The EPA announced on Thursday that they will be regulating all use of nano-silver in US commercial products. If you make odor eating socks with nano-silver you now have to make sure that it won't get out into the environment and cause harm.

The city of Berkeley, California is also looking at creating the first local government nanotech regulations. This isn't surprising for two reasons.

  1. Berkeley has long history of being environmentally conscious and has a very active political community, often leading detractors and jokesters to dub this enclave The Socialist Republik of Berkeley
  2. They actually play host to a great deal of research into nanotechnology at UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They have a vested interest in protecting their communities from the potential harmful effects of nanotech research.

I will be watching this closely and hope that the concerned community members and the scientists can come to some middle ground where research isn't totally crippled by massive regulation but where unknown safety risks are considered.

Fun times in the nanoworld.

Jul
03
2006

Magic Nano: The "Magic Nano" cleaning spray.
Magic Nano: The "Magic Nano" cleaning spray.

When "Magic Nano" cleaning spray went on the market in March, it got yanked almost immediately after over 100 people reported coughing fits and breathing problems. So was this the first health disaster for nanotechnology? No, considering the product didn’t contain any nanotechnology or nanoscale particles, just a nano marketing ploy.

The product used the name because it created a thin film on the surface you were cleaning but didn't use any nanoscale properties. The problem with the product was more about a poorly tested traditional aerosol.

We should keep this story in mind as nanotechnology finds its way into more and more products. Nanotechnology product expert, Neil McClelland, puts it well when he says,

"People are just starting to hear about nanotechnology and this issue will just help to bring the issue to the fore. But it would be disastrous for all concerned if the nature of nano is destroyed. Imagine if we had had a bad batch of penicillin at the beginning and wrote it off - that would have been a tragedy. The implications of nanotechnology in healthcare are massive. We have a moral obligation that this technology will do well."