Nanoparticles are microscopic particles less than 100 nm (nanometers) in diameter - that's one-billionth of a meter or around one thousandth the diameter of a human hair. A great deal of money is being poured into nanotechnology research given the wide application for nanoparticles - and they are already appearing in some many products including sunscreen and cosmetics.
Nanoparticles are of particular interest to agricultural chemical companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and BASF; who have been developing nanoparticle pesticides for some years now.
According to Rural sociologist Dr Kristin Lyons of Griffith University Australia, the world's leading chemical company already sells a number of pesticide emulsions containing nanoparticles, but due to a lack of nanoparticle regulations, manufacturers may not be legally required to register established pesticides that have been altered to included nanoparticles.
The positive side of nanoparticle pesticides is that far less need to be applied and according to the supporters of nano-technology, this reduces costs and environmental damage.
Reducing costs, sure, but reducing environmental damage? Perhaps not.
Studies in animals have shown that some nanoparticles can be absorbed into cells and tissues, move throughout the entire body and brain and cause damage. There's just so much not known about the long term effects of nanoparticles as these are essentially new materials, not encountered by any living organisms during the course of biological evolution on this planet.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has attributed 60,000 deaths per year to the inhalation of fine particle pollutants in the atmosphere. Fine particles are those with a diameter of 10,000 nanometers, 100 times *larger* than a nanoparticle - and they are using nano-technology in stuff that's sole purpose is to kill organisms? It's a little unsettling .
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