Nanotechnology in Electronics, a Primer on Life Cycle Risk Assessment

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which is not a biker gang but “a diverse organization engaged in research, advocacy and grassroots organizing to promote human health and environmental justice in response to the rapid growth of the high-tech industry”  has released a report looking at “Nanotechnology in Electronics: The Risk to Human Health and the Environment”

It doesn’t really add much to the debate, other than pointing out that nanomaterials (along with many other toxic materials) are used in the electronics industry, and there may be a risk of exposure during manufacturing, or more probably disposal and recycling.

The groups main beef is that products containing engineered nanoparticles are not labelled which “hinders the consumer’s ability to make informed decisions about the products that they purchase, how they interact with the product, as well as how they dispose of the product at the end of its life” although the group concedes that

As an electronics consumer, there does not appear to be a great risk of exposure to nanomaterials since ENPs are generally embedded in a matrix housed inside the product. Alternatively, the risk for exposure is different for nanomaterials coated on the outside of products. For example, nanosilver is an anti-microbial agent that is often used as a coating on the outside surface of computer keyboards and mouse devices, as well as cell phones. Such coatings could potentially be absorbed through the skin by the user, and consequently induce toxic effects.

Overall it is a neat summary for newcomers to the subject and mostly avoids the usual NGO hype of calling for all manner of things to be labelled, banned and regulated on the basis of both known and unknown unknowns.

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