Friday, April 21, 2006

Berube's Lists of Podcasts

The spin on this.

I get a lot of requests for a lot of things in nano. I have been experimenting with podcasting and video-blogging recently and am going to package a nice set of nano related podcasts either at the USC site or maybe even the ICON site. Who knows?

A recent survey from The Scientist prodded me to make this list for public consumption. I hope you enjoy them.


Absolute Science -
Current Science and Technology (Museum of Science, Boston) -
Dr. Karl’s Great Moments in Science (ABC Radio National) -
Genetic Science Learning Center (U Utah)-
Imagine that (NSF) –
Inoculated Mind -
Microbe World Radio -
Naked Scientists -
Nature -
New England Journal of Medicine –
New Scientist -
Point of Inquiry (Center for Inquiry)-
Quirks and Quarks (BBC) -
NPR Health and Science -
NPR Science Friday -
Science -
Science and Society -
Science and the City (NY Acad of Sciences) -
Science Update (AAAS) -
Seed Magazine -
Spotlight on Science (The Smithsonian) -
This Week from The Scientist -
This Week in Science (Kickass Science Podcast) -

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


What an interesting week this has been. I've learned a lot about Kleinmann, Nanopool, nano-liquid, and more. Of course, any inaccuracies below will be corrected but I think this is mostly correct.

March 31 – BfR (Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Analysis) released a statement on a product known as Magic Nano Bad WC Versiegeler. Kleinmann GmbH, based in Sonnenbhl, Germany and a subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works, marketed Magic Nano. The product was sold in supermarkets on March 27 and recalled on March 28.

Background – Kleinmann’s site reports nano-sealants were developed out of the Institute for New Materials in Saabr├╝cken. Institute scientists and investors formed startups or spin-offs which in turn sell nano-liquid to industry. Kleinmann wanted to introduce one of the first end user products foreseeing huge possibilities and future market potential. Kleinmann purchases what they call a nanoliquid from one of these companies.

A search will produce a product called Nano Liquid (see For example, this specific product is made up of gold and silver with particles in the 8 nm. range. They remain in suspension by mixing controlled amount of squalene oil (it is found in nature and its sources include olives, palm oil, wheat germ oil, and shark liver oil and its used as a moisturizer) and they claim some conductivity advantages associated with the product.

According to BfR the active component was a nano-liquid and this sent me on a search through the literature and a series of interviews. Presumably, the cleaning liquid was tested on April 7 at Saarland and preliminary reports suggest the nano-liquid was not responsible for the health problems. The supplier for the liquid was presumably Nanopool which is a startup or spinoff at Saabr├╝cken. The Economist, like my earlier blog entry, identified silicate particles suspended in fluid which block cervised, reducing the scope for dirt, moisture and bacteria.

I’ve learned the product is a solution of a perfluorated siloxane oil in ethanol (siloxanes are a class of both organic and inorganic chemical compounds which consist entirely of silicon, oxygen, and an alkyl group). Inhalation of impregnation spray is not uncommon. The aerosol nature of the spray might have led to the causative reaching deeper into the lungs than it might have done in the pump spray version. In an earlier blog I suggested the cause might be the propellant and a spokesman from Kleinmann added another possibility which is the anti-corrosive liquid inside the propellant can itself.

BfR reported on April 12th that it remains unknown what the cause was for the intoxication cases. They are unwilling to cite the nanoparticles, as a component of the aerosol, due to the lack of data. They did add the distributors of the spread were “unable to supply the full formulations because information was missing from upstream suppliers” which is worrisome. BfR did explain the size of the droplets were very small in the aerosol version of the sealant which probably allowed the irritant to reach deeper into the lungs.

In addition, the name for the product is misleading. The term nano was probably used because spraying the product on a surface creates a surface layer at nano-sized thickness. Another source suggested that BfR decided to use the prefix nano in their release because Kleinmann used it to name the particle and maybe because the active ingredient in the formula was "nano-liquid".

Bullis from Technology Reviews reported 79 people reported breathing problems and coughing and 6 were hospitalized. Other sources report 108 adverse reports to the poison control center though BfR reports 97. It would be interesting to chart the occurrences to determine if there was any peaking before and after BfR’s release and the press reporting.

There does seem to be some serious credence to the alert. As a bath cleanser and as bathrooms are mostly enclosed spaces, ventilation might be problematical and as such there should be concern about inhalation effects regardless of the proximate cause of the edemas. Anecdotally, Kleinmann's windscreen cleaner containing the same materials has not generated alarm but of course that is used in well-ventilated areas.

I was fascinated by the opportunities to study a product cascade event. When folks talk about the need for regulation, very often they add a dire warning that one disaster or catastrophic event regarding a single product line might transfer to other lines and the entire industry. The cascade is the internal operation mechanism between onset and demise. We desperately need cascade data sets and we simply don’t have them.

Another colleague of mine warned as I did earlier: Without an established cause and effect, it is possible to inappropriately assign a hazard classification to a product of nanotechnology and by association an entire class of materials. I could not agree more. My apprehension rests on two observations I have made from my review of the literature. First, there is excellent experimental data suggesting that remediation of some of our worst toxic waste sites might be possible with passive and functionalized nanoparticles. Second, there is some highly encouraging data suggesting that functionalized nanoparticles might be highly effective is treating a set of cancers that are devastating the lives of millions of people. False transference of effects across a spectrum of nanoproducts simply makes me cringe. Rhetoric of this sort is hazard dominant and for some good reason. However, the rhetoric needs to consider net effects as well and this is a lesson hard learned by those who amplify risk for their own interests.

This same colleague of mine reminded me that the uncertainties associated with this recall underscore the need for clarity with respect to terminology, hazard identification, and risk communication. He is totally correct. The nano prefix is being abused by advertising and marketing folks and needs to be reigned in.

Another colleague of mine also noticed that of the 60 German media articles on the event only 3 mentioned nanotechnology whereas all the USA articles mentioned the word or a term including nano as a prefix. He made this statement. “The German media focus on consumer safety, while the US media tend to threaten the symbolic value of nanotechnology.” This is fascinating and it would be interesting to better understand that intercultural dynamic at work here.

It didn’t take long for the ETC Group to jump to attention and used the uncertain events to underline their call for a global moratorium on nanotechnology lab research and a recall of consumer products containing nanoparticles.

Much more cautious remarks were offered by others. The NanoEthics Group (I am on their advisory board) categorized the incident as a wake-up call that the potential risks of nanotechnology are real and deserve more attention by both government and industry. Environmental Defense immediately demanded spending more money on testing, plugging holes in regulation, and avoiding the use of nanoparticles in dispersive applications until more is known. CBEN’s Kevin Ausman called for more study to learn about the toxicity values of carefully purified forms of nanoparticles. These are all good ideas but please note they were driven by the assumption that this incident was nano-related. Indeed, some of these recommendations are found in the April 12th press release from BfR.
The final lesson learned – the German Network of Poison Centers work pretty well and kudos to BfR for breaking the alert in the first place. The most recent BfR release can be found at

The Economist reports that on April 10th the product inside the aerosol can was cleared by BfR though no mention has been made about the anti-corrosive. The recent BfR press release is much more cautious in its findings.

Once again - all opinions expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation, the International Council of Nanotechnology or the University of South Carolina, neither its NanoCenter and NanoSTS.

Friday, April 7, 2006

ON THE RADAR week on April 2, 2006

Folks asked me to post this. Every week I make of list of some important things I need to watch in the "nanorealm".

Week of April 2, 2006

1. Vet Mehta’s new study - 2005 Nanomanufacturing Industry Survey.
2. Vet NEG report - Involve.
3. Preliminary drafts of the Scenario exercises in Nanologue were released for review by participants.
4. Participate in a fascinating BITE (Biometric Identity Technology Ethics) while consultation remains open.
5. How is BioLok doing after its FDA approval?
6. NABIS is holding another conference - Center on Nanotechnology and Society 1st Annual Nanopolicy Conference on April 28, 2006 in DC.
7. DoC’s new NIST Nanotechnology Center is still undefined.
8. Israeli-New York State agreement remains undefined.
9. Watch Southampton’s optical bar coding research
10. Watch Applied Nanotech and Taiwanese initiative on building CNT TVs.
11. Watch Orion Solar new dye solar cell production after its recent VC round.
12. Watch MIT, Hong Kong Univ. research of nerve cell regeneration (hamsters).
13. Watch Toronto’s research on size and shape of gold nanoparticles and uptake data.
14. Watch Northeastern and Rensselaer work on flexible polymer-carbon nanotube composites.
15. Watch Alltracel Pharmaceuticals, Ireland, and Elmarco, Czech Republic, who have developed a polymer nano-fibre delivery platform for Alltracel's micro-dispersed oxidized cellulose (m.doc) haemostatic (blood-stopping) agent.
16. Watch the US Food and Drug Administration approved Insert Therapeutics' application to carry out a phase 1 clinical trial of its anti-cancer treatment IT-101. IT-101 combines the anti-cancer compound camptothecin with Insert's Cyclosert technology, a delivery platform based on a linear cyclodextrin polymer.

The BfR Kleinman "Magic Nano" and CASCADE EFFECTS

On March 31, 2006, Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) issued a press release on “nano-sealing sprays” ( identified in the Washington Post article as a bathroom cleanser. In this instance, it is important to contextualize the BfR press release and ICON plans to feature such a service on its web site in the near future. In the interim, it is important to note the following:

First, there may be merely an incidental relationship between the name of a product and its use of nanomaterials. Sometimes a product’s name is hype. Simply put, it is unclear what nanoparticles, if any, are in “Magic Nano.” Products of this type often include silicates, silicones, acids and dimethyl ether as the propellent.

Second, the release is short on causal data; however, the suggestion of some correlation between the observed health effects and the aerosol version of “Magic Nano” does support the importance of learning more about the potential implications and interactions of dispersive nanomaterials and the state of the regulatory regime over nanomaterials.

Third, without additional information, we cannot determine how important this incident is in the overall scheme of nanoparticle safety, especially since the strongest relationship seems to be associated with the propellant rather than the product itself, as shown by the failure of distress incidences in the pump version.

Fourth, there may be some synergistic effect between the propellant and the particles that needs to be examined, which further supports the position taken by ICON and others in favor of the commitment of more resources to study the toxicology of nanomaterials.

Fifth, the distributors are taking a responsible and conservative approach by recalling the product immediately, even though the BfR only advises against the use of the propellant version in enclosed spaces. Current thinking is that the symptoms were caused by the propellent, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Most importantly, the call at the end of the BfR release for consumer complaints regarding other products (which may or may not use nanoparticles) could stimulate a “response cascade” whereby a problem in one product line transfers to a different product line. This has been a concern expressed by many parties in the regulatory debate. There are now over 100 adverse reports to the poison control centers, with more coming in every day as awareness increases via the media, possibly demonstrating some cascading.

On April 7 the BfR will meet with the manufacturer, Kleinman; the supplier, Nanopool; and a variety of staffers from the BfR to get answers regarding what testing was done, what risks were uncovered, and what Kleinman and or Nanopool intend to do. Depending on the discussions, the BfR will make recommendations about regulatory action.