It isn’t easy at all to separate nanotoxicity from nanopollution on the same approach. Besides, those two topics drive to a third: nanosafety.
The main focus of nanotoxicity, nanopollution and nanosafety is one word: nanoparticles (or, to be more accurate, exposure to nanoparticles and presence of nanoparticles).
Some major concerns:
- Scientists doing research in laboratory facilities are exposed to nanoparticles;
- Workers in nanoindustries (or in other industries using nanotechnology-based products) are exposed to nanoparticles during the processes of nanofabrication, production or incorporation of already produced nanoparticles in other products under production;
- Consumers may be exposed to nanoparticles while using those products;
- Patients may be exposed to nanoparticles while they are being submitted to nanotechnology-based therapies;
- The environment may be exposed to nanoparticles, collecting and cumulating them in the form of wasted after usage.
Nanotoxicity is dedicated to the study of potential risks of nanomaterials on health: the health hazards generated by exposure to nanomaterials.
The fact of nanomaterials having sizes in the range of 1 to 10 nm (nanoscale) implies that hey are much more readily and easily absorbed by the human body than larger sized materials.
Consequently, several and serious issues and concerns are raised which require intensive and coordinated. Follow some examples:
- How nanoparticles behave inside a living organism (including human body);
- The interaction of nanoparticles with biological processes inside the living organisms (including de human body);
- What if non-degradable or slowly degradable nanoparticles accumulate inside a living organism (including organs of human body)?
Nanoparticles can be almost everywhere. However, there are two potential vectors for the dissemination of nanoparticles: air and drinking water. Their presence both in the in the air and in the drinking water can affect all living organisms (including the human being) as well as the whole environment.
The presence of nanoparticles in the air can also affect the drinking water, rivers, seas, oceans, due to the water cycle. Due to this cycle too, the presence of nanoparticles in the drinking water can also affect the air.
The debates about nanopollution discuss all waste in the environment generated by nanoparticles. Due to the particular properties of nanoparticles, those can float in the air and might easily penetrate animal and plant cells, soils, liquid water and ice causing unknown effects.
By irony, one of the vast and promising potentials of nanotechnology is to improve the environment by;
• Replacing hazardous substances through “green” chemicals;
• By making industrial processes cleaner and create environmentally friendly products.
Environment protection communities are concerned about the damage that nanoparticles can make on ecosystems.
Consumer protection communities are concerned about what nanoparticles might cause diverse adverse health conditions.
As a consequence, nanotoxicity and nanopollution are intimately related with nanosafety. Concerns about nanotoxicity, nanopollution and nanosafety are one of several reasons why the adoption of nanotechnology in medicine and biomedicine isn’t as fast as it could be.