According to a recent study the public isn’t concerned about nanotechnology risks, from the April 12, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,
A new study (“Comparing nanoparticle risk perceptions to other known EHS risks” [published online in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research, DOI: 10.1007/s11051-011-0325, behind a paywall]) finds that the general public thinks getting a suntan poses a greater public health risk than nanotechnology or other nanoparticle applications. The study, from North Carolina State University, compared survey respondents’ perceived risk of nanoparticles with 23 other public-health risks.
“For example, 19 of the other public-health risks were perceived as more hazardous, including suntanning and drinking alcohol,” says Dr. Andrew Binder, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the study. “The only things viewed as less risky were cell-phone use, blood transfusions, commercial air travel and medical X-rays.”
In fact, 60 percent of respondents felt that nanoparticles posed either no health risk or only a slight health risk.
In reading this news item I noticed that they mentioned suntans as being perceived as more high risk than nanoparticles. It seems to me that there’s been a great deal more work done to convince people that getting a suntan is a risky proposition compared to warning people about nanoparticles. Huge, huge amounts of money have been spent on public education and publicity about the risks posed by exposure to sunlight. Of course, it took a lot of work and money to determine that exposure to sunlight can pose risks in the first place. At this point, we don’t know very much about nanoparticles at all.