“Traditional” Chemicals Can Be Dangerous Too

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With all the worries about the safety of nanomaterials it is worth remembering that ‘traditional’ chemicals can also be dangerous.

A fire near Leominster in the UK is causing concern over the isocyanate stored there. Isocyante was of course the chemical which killed 8-10,000 people in the Bhopal chemical plant explosion in 1984.

While there have been concerns over the use of nanomaterials, by the time they reach the consumer their bioavailablity should be close to zero – even if by some feat I managed to swallow my nanotube containing badminton racket, the chances of any nanotubes being liberated inside me are exceedingly small.

Of far more concern is what happens when there is a problem at some intermediate stage. Like most nanomaterials, isocyanate isn’t something that most people would come into contact with – it’s an intermediate stage in the production of other materials – unless there is a fire, explosion or other unintentional release.

While a lot of the discussion of safety of nanomaterials have focussed on consumers, perhaps as a result of employing the same tactics as with GMOs, the  potential for human exposure is far greater from a disaster at a manufacturing or storage facility.

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