Nanotech Powered Glass – Poisoning The Well

An article in Uganda’s Sunday Monitor illustrates the difficulties of policing nanotechnology claims, with the arrival of a new nanotechnology powered kind of glass…

There is frenzy in Kampala, especially among the middle class, of a new type of small glass, with near magical powers, claimed to enhance body mood and replenish water and other beverages with lost essential minerals. The glass is believed to have been developed at high altitude.

It costs between Shs500,000- 1,000,000. The glass, whose brand name is withheld, claims to make sick people get nutrients from its use. One pours water and drinks. It is also claimed that carrying it in one’s pocket makes them healthier.

It is one of the numerous products imported into the country based on a new era of advanced research based on nanotechnology, a science that manipulates matter at the scale of atoms and molecules.

The claims are total rubbish of course, and people have been complaining that it doesn’t work, but in much of the developing world there are no real enforceable standards on anything, from baby milk to drugs, or at least nothing that slipping a wad of notes to the right person won’t get around. I’ve seen similar materials, often claiming to be glass or ceramic based which can help with everything from better sleep to sexual stamina.

A major worry is, of course, that any fake or dangerous products making claims to contain nanotechnology tend to pollute genuine products, as we saw a few years ago with Magic Nano, which caused some respiratory problems but didn’t actually contain any ‘nanotech’. Despite that, it was cited as an example of the dangers of nanotech as recently as this month. Unfortunately, fake nanoproducts have the same potential to trigger knee jerk responses as genuine ones.

While we develop all kinds of detailed regulations and testing procedures for nanomaterials, it’s worth considering what the rest of the world has to put up with!

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Comments 3

  1. Andrew Maynard

    What particularly struck me in the Sunday Monitor piece was the enormity of the task Ugandan authorities have in combating cases like this, where scientific uncertainty and lack of training/resources create huge loopholes for highly questionable practices.

    Clearly an area where help is needed in separating snake oil from serious science

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  3. DavidNeiman

    I agree with Andrew, except to change “Ugandan” to “all”.

    The “senior official” quoted in the article used a lovely word that perhaps should get worldwide adoption: kiwaani (fake). By the way it was used in the Monitor article, it had a delightful echo of the crushing “not even wrong” critique.

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