Tag Archives: PEN

Crypton and NANO-TEX together at last

A Jan. 6, 2014 news item on Nanowerk notes that Crypton Fabrics has purchased NANO-TEX,

CRYPTON INC. has acquired NANO-TEX®, announced Randy Rubin, Chairman of The Crypton Companies. The privately held, 20-year-old Crypton Fabrics, based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, recently purchased NANO-TEX from private equity and venture capital investors; WL Ross and Co. LLC as major stockholders, in addition to Norwest Venture Partners, Masters Capital Nanotechnology Fund, Firelake Capital Management and Masters Capital Management.

NANO-TEX is a textile technology company whose performance finishes have enhanced leading consumer brands such as GAP, TARGET, MAIDENFORM, BASS PRO SHOPS, NORDSTROM, LAND’S END, FISHER-PRICE and many more.

The Jan. 6, 2014 Crypton (there has to be a Superman or inert gas enthusiast in that company) press release, which can be found on this page under this title: Silicon Valley to Motown, Performance Textile Leader Crypton Purchases Nano-Tex, explains why the NANO-TEX acquisition was so attractive and what it means to NANO-TEX’s major stockholders,

NANO‐TEX employs a proprietary nanotechnology approach to enhance textiles at the molecular level that provides permanent performance attributes such as stain and water resistance, moisture wicking, odor control, static elimination and wrinkle free properties. The end result is performance fabrics that maintain the original comfort, look and feel of the fabric and perform for the life of the product.

In 2013, NANO‐TEX technologies were on $280 million in branded finished products at retail worldwide.

Wilbur Ross, Jr., Chairman of WL Ross said, “We are extremely pleased by Crypton’s acquisition. This assures that NANO‐TEX will continue on a strong growth trajectory. Its expanding market reach and prominence will further enhance the competitiveness of WL Ross’s companies in the consumer and industrial fabrics industries, too; the goal that sparked our initial investment interest in NANO‐TEX eight years ago.”

It seems there was a specific product which attracted the Crypton team’s attention,

“This is a strategic acquisition as we extend our market share with apparel throughout the world. The intellectual properties and latest development, Aquapel®, a non‐fluorinated repellency treatment, is very exciting to our research team,” said Rubin.

There’s more about this product on the NANO-TEX Aquapel® page.

On a completely other note, at least one NANO-TEX product has silver in it according to a 2007 entry on the Consumer Products Inventory (Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies),

They Say:

“Nano-Tex™’s revolutionary technology fundamentally transforms fabric at the nano-level to dramatically improve your favorite everyday clothing.”

Nanomaterials:

Silver

Potential Exposure Pathways:

Dermal

How much we know:

Category 4 (Unsupported claim)

Additional Information:

Generic Product

Crypton too has silver in at least one product (from the INCASE Fabric Protection FAQs),

Q:  How does INCASE™ resist bacterial growth?
A: Silver Ion technology is used in INCASE to inhibit the growth of a broad spectrum of medically relevant microorganisms, including bacteria. Silver is one of nature’s original antimicrobials. Used thousands of years ago by Greeks in vessels to preserve water and wine, the natural benefits of silver have now been tapped to keep fabrics odor-free.

Cyrpton’s INCASE product uses sliver ions, which according to some research at Rice University (based in Texas, US), are more toxic than silver nanoparticles, from my July 13, 2012 posting,

He [Pedro Alvarez, George R. Brown Professor and chair of Rice’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department] said the finding should shift the debate over the size, shape and coating of silver nanoparticles. [emphasis mine] “Of course they matter,” Alvarez said, “but only indirectly, as far as these variables affect the dissolution rate of the ions. The key determinant of toxicity is the silver ions. So the focus should be on mass-transfer processes and controlled-release mechanisms.”

Crypton’s About page strongly suggests an environmentally friendly and health conscious company (Note: Links have been removed),

Innovation. Industry leadership. A deep commitment to product excellence. These core elements are at the heart of the Crypton DNA – a labor of love that began in 1993 when founders Craig and Randy Rubin set out to create a new generation of stylish fabrics that were moisture-resistant and easy-to-clean, yet soft, comfortable and breathable.

From the basement of their Michigan home, a textile revolution was born.

Now based in West Bloomfield Michigan, with a green manufacturing facility in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, Crypton is the only textile solution in the world offering complete stain, moisture, mildew, bacteria and odor-resistant protection thanks to a patented process developed by some of the leading minds in the textile industry.

Early on, by offering a fabric – not a vinyl or plastic – that was capable of resisting stains, moisture, odors and bacteria, Crypton proved to be the perfect solution for the health care market. Following this initial success, Crypton solutions rapidly expanded into some of the finest restaurants, hotels, cruise ships around the world, as well as government complexes, schools and health care facilities.

Now trusted and relied on by over 90% of contract designers, there are more than 20,000 patterns of Crypton fabric available today. Crypton is the only fabric deemed a non-porous surface and can be disinfected when used in conjunction with our U.S. EPA-approved Crypton Disinfectant & Deodorizer.

From fabric, carpet, leather, wall and mattress to pet beds, home accessories, bags and luggage – our mission is to give customers more ways to live healthy, live beautifully and Live Clean®.

While there is no incontrovertible proof that silver nanoparticles and/or silver ions are a serious threat to the environment, it would be nice to see companies acknowledge some of the concerns.

Nanosilver—US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gets wrist slapped over nanosilver decision in textiles while Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) publishes article about nanosilver

I have two pieces about nanosilver today (Nov. 11 ,2013). The first concerns a Nov. 7, 2013 court ruling in favour of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stating that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to follow its own rules when it accorded HeiQ Materials (a Swiss textile company) permission to market and sell its nanosilver-based antimicrobial fabric treatment in the US. From the NRDC’s Nov. 7, 2013 press release,

Court Ruling in NRDC’s Favor Should Limit Pesticide Nanosilver in Textiles

In a decision handed down today, the court said the EPA had improperly approved the use of nanosilver by one U.S. textile manufacturer [HeiQ Materials; headquarteed in Switzerland]. The court vacated the approval and sent it back to the agency for reevaluation. The lawsuit has been closely watched as a test case for the growing use of nanotechnology in consumer products.

“The court’s ruling puts us a step closer toward removing nanosilver from textiles,” said Mae Wu, an attorney in NRDC’s Health Program. “EPA shouldn’t have approved nanosilver in the first place. This is just one of a long line of decisions by the agency treating people and our environment as guinea pigs and laboratories for these untested pesticides.”

NRDC sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in early 2012 to limit the use of nanosilver out of a concern for public health. Today the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a key point NRDC raised: that the EPA didn’t follow its own rules for determining whether the pesticide’s use in products would be safe.

Beginning in December 2011, EPA approved the company HeiQ Materials to sell nanosilver used in fabrics for the next four years and required the company to provide data on toxicity for human health and aquatic organisms. In early 2012, NRDC filed a lawsuit against EPA seeking to block nanosilver’s use, contending, among several points, that the agency had ignored its own rules for determining the safety of nanosilver.

The key part of today’s Ninth Circuit ruling addressed EPA’s determination that there is no risk concern for toddlers exposed to nanosilver-treated textiles. The agency’s rules state that if there’s an aggregate exposure to the skin or through ingestion at or below a specific level, there is a risk of health concerns. But the Ninth Circuit found that the EPA had data showing that nanosilver was right at the level that should have triggered a finding of potential risk, but approved the pesticide anyway. That led to the Ninth Circuit vacating EPA’s approval and sending it back down to the agency for reevaluation.

Published in July 2013 (?), Nate Seltenrich’s article, Nanosilver: Weighing the Risks and BenefitsNanosilver: Weighing the Risks and Benefits, for the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) [published with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]) provides some insight into the court case and the issues,

It takes a special sort of case to spur attorneys into a debate over the drooling habits of toddlers. Yet that’s where lawyers from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Swiss chemicals company HeiQ found themselves in January 2013 as they debated in a federal appeals court the extent to which 1-year-olds and 3-year-olds chew, salivate, and swallow.1

At issue in the NRDC’s suit against the EPA, which is still awaiting ruling, was whether the agency was right in granting a conditional registration in December 2011 to a nanosilver-based antimicrobial fabric treatment manufactured by HeiQ.2 The EPA’s risk assessment was based in part on assumptions about exposure of 3-year-olds by sucking or chewing on nanosilver-laced textiles such as clothing, blankets, and pillowcases.

NRDC lawyer Catherine Rahm, however, begged to differ with the agency’s methods. In the January hearing, she argued that the agency record shows infants are more likely than any other subset of children to chew on fabrics that could contain the pesticide, and that if the agency were to recalculate its risk assessment based on the body weight of a 1-year-old, nanosilver concentrations in HeiQ’s product could result in potentially harmful exposures.

It’s an obscure but critical distinction as far as risk assessment goes. And given the implications for HeiQ and other companies looking to follow in its footsteps, the case has landed at the center of a prolonged conflict over the regulation of nanosilver and the growing deployment of this antimicrobial ingredient in a variety of commercial and consumer products.

Yet regardless of which side prevails in the case, the truth about nanosilver is not black and white. Even the loudest voices joining the NRDC’s call for strict regulation of nanosilver concede that context is key.

Seltenrich goes on to recount a little of the history of nanosilver and provide a brief a relatively balanced overview of the research. At the end of the article, he lists 37 reference documents and offers links, should you wish to research further. For anyone interested in HeiQ, here’s the company website.

The second nanosilver news item is from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation( online. In an article by Evelyn Boychuk titled, Silver nanoparticle use spurs U.S. consumer database; Database tracks growing number of consumer goods containing nanomaterials, these nanoparticles are discussed within the context of a resuscitated Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) Consumer Products Inventory (CPI), which was mentioned in my Oct. 28, 2013 posting titled: Rising from the dead: the inventory of nanotechnology-based consumer products. The articles offers an easy introduction to the topic and refers to a database of silver,nanotechnology in commercial products (complementary to the larger CPI).

Rising from the dead: the inventory of nanotechnology-based consumer products

The inventory of nanotechnology-based consumer products or the Consumer Products Inventory (CPI) is still cited in articles about nanotechnology and its pervasive use in consumer products despite the fact that the inventory was effectively rendered inactive (i.e., dead) in 2009 and that  it was a voluntary system with no oversight, meaning whoever made the submission to the inventory could make any claims they wanted. Now that it’s 2013, things are about to change according to an Oct. 28, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily,

As a resource for consumers, scientists, and policy makers, the Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (VTSuN) has joined the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to renew and expand the Nanotechnology Consumer Product Inventory, an important source of information about products using nanomaterials.

“We want people to appreciate the revolution, such as in electronics and medicine. But we also want them to be informed,” said Nina Quadros, a research scientist at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and associate director of VTSuN, who leads a team of Virginia Tech faculty members and students on this project. Todd Kuiken, senior program associate, and David Rajeski, director of the science and technology innovation program, lead this project at the Wilson Center.

The Oct. 28, 2013 Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) news release by Susan Trulove (which originated the news item),provides a brief history of the inventory and a description of its revivification,

The Wilson Center and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnology created the inventory in 2005. It grew from 54 to more than 1,000 products, many of which have come and gone. The inventory became the most frequently cited resource, showcasing the widespread applications of nanotechnology. However, in 2009, the project was no longer funded.

“I used it in publications and presentations when talking about all the ways nano is part of people’s lives in consumer products,” said Matthew Hull, who manages the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science’s investment portfolio in nanoscale science and engineering, which includes the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology. “But the inventory was criticized by researchers, regulators, and manufacturers for the lack of scientific information available to support product claims.”

In a meeting with his friend, Andrew Maynard, director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, who had initiated the inventory when he was at the Wilson Center, Hull proposed leveraging Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology resources to improve the inventory.

“My role was to ask ‘what if’ and [the Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology] ran with it,” said Hull.

A partnership was formed and, with funding from the Virginia Tech institute, the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology restructured the inventory to improve the reliability, functionality, and scientific credibility of the database.

“Specifically, we added scientific significance and usefulness by including qualitative and quantitative descriptors for the products and the nanomaterials contained in these products, such as size, concentration, and potential exposure routes,” said Quadros. For example, an intentional exposure route would be the way a medicine is administered. An unintentional exposure would be when a child chews on a toy that has been treated with silver nanoparticles that are used as an antimicrobial. The potential health effect of nanomaterials on children was Quadros doctoral research and she used the inventory to find products designed for children that use nanomaterials, such as plush toys.

“One of the best things about the new version of the inventory is the additional information and the ability to search by product type or the type of nanomaterial,” she said. “When researchers were first attempting to assess the potential environmental impacts of nanotechnology, one main challenge was understanding how these nanomaterials might end up in the environment in the first place. After searching the CPI and seeing the vast applications of nanotechnologies in consumer products it was easier to narrow down scenarios.”

For example, Quadros said many silver nanoparticles are used in clothing for antimicrobial protection, so we can infer that some silver nanoparticles may end up in wastewater treatment plants after clothes washing. This helped justify some of the research on the effects of silver nanoparticle in the biological wastewater treatment processes. Currently, the inventory lists 188 products under the ‘clothing’ category.”

This team also included published scientific data related to those products, where available, and developed a metric to assess the reliability of the data on each inventory entry.

The team interviewed more than 50 nanotechnology experts with more than 350 combined years of experience in nanotechnology, Quadros said. “Their answers provided valuable guidance to help us address diverse stakeholder needs.”

In addition, the site’s users can log in and add information based on their own expertise. “Anyone can suggest edits. The curator and reviewer will approve the edits, and then the new information will go live,” Quadros said.

“We’ve added the horsepower of [the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology], but opened it by means of crowdsourcing to new information, such as refuting or supporting claims made about products,” Hull said.

“The goal of this work is to create a living, growing inventory for the exchange of accurate information on nano­enabled consumer products,” Quadros said. “Improved information sharing will allow citizens, manufacturers, scientists, policymakers, and others to better understand how nanotechnology is being used in the consumer marketplace,” she said.

As of October 2013,

The inventory currently lists more than 1,600 consumer products that claim to contain nanotechnology or have been found to contain nanomaterials.

Quadros will give a presentation about the inventory at the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization conference in Santa Barbara on Nov. 3-5 and will present to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation in the spring.

Key collaborators at Virginia Tech are Sean McGinnis, an associate research professor in the materials science and engineering department; Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering; her postdoc, Eric Vejerano, who was instrumental in development of product categories; and Michael Hochella, a university distinguished professor in the geosciences department and Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology director.

You can find the Consumer Products Inventory here where it is still hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. The website for the Second Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization Conference where Quadros will be presenting can be found here and is where this conference description can be found,

The objective of this conference is to bring together scientific experts from academia, industry, and government agencies from around the world to present and discuss current research findings on the subject of nanotechnology and sustainability.

The conference program will address the critical aspects of sustainable nanotechnology such as life cycle assessment, green synthesis, green energy, industrial partnerships, environmental and biological fate, and the overall sustainability of engineered nanomaterials. In principle, this involves the fundamental/applied research on the chemistry of producing new green nanomaterials; eco-manufacturing processing of nanomaterials and products, using nanotechnology to benefit society, and examining possible harmful effects of nanotechnology.

The conference will also foster new collaborations between academic and industrial participants. This community of users, researchers and developers of engineered nanomaterials will provide a long-term, scientific assessment of where the science is for sustainable nano, where it should be heading, and what steps academics, government agencies and others can take now to reach targeted goals. In addition, the conference will serve as the platform to initiate the formation of the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO), a non-profit, international professional society dedicated to advancing sustainable nanotechnology through education, research, and promotion of responsible development of nanotechnology.

Finally because I can resist no longer, especially so near to Hallowe’en, I guess you could call the ‘renewed’ CPI, a zombie CPI as it’s back from the dead and it needs brains,

Zombies in Moscow, 26 April 2009 Credit: teujene [downloaded from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zombies_in_Moscow.jpg]

Zombies in Moscow, 26 April 2009 Credit: teujene [downloaded from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zombies_in_Moscow.jpg]

Safe use of nanotechnology for environmental remediation June 5 – 7, 2013 conference/workshop

The inaugural conference/national workshop on the safe use of nanotechnology for environmental remediation is being held at Southeastern Louisiana University from June 5 – 7, 2013. A Southeastern Louisiana University May 23, 2013 news release provides more detail,

An increasing number of hazardous waste disposal sites are using nanotechnology and nanomaterials in their environmental remediation efforts, leaving open questions about the safety of such techniques.

“While applications and results of nano-enabled strategies for environmental remediation are promising, there is still the challenge of ensuring such applications are both safe and sustainable,” said conference organizer Ephraim Massawe. “The federal government has established different projects coordinated by different agencies, called signature initiatives. We plan on generating information supportive of some of these federal initiatives.”

The event, “Nano-4_Rem_Anseers2013: Applications of Nanotechnolgoy for Safe and Sustainable Environmental Remediations,” [sic] is a cooperative endeavor involving the university and agencies and institutions, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Louisiana Board of Regents is providing partial financial support.

The news release (which can also be viewed as a May 24, 2013 news item on Azonano) goes on to provide details about the keynote speakers,

Four keynote speakers are slated to address the three-day conference, which will be held on the Southeastern campus. Speakers and topics include:

— Patrick O’Shaughnessy, professor of occupational and environmental health in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa, “Nanosafety: Current Issues and Guidance;”
— Dongye Zhao, Huff endowed professor of environmental engineering at Auburn University: “Application of Stabilized Nanoparticles for in situ Remediation of Contaminated Soil and Groundwater;”
— Souhail Al-Abed of the EPA Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati: “Nanotechnology and the Environment: an Overview of Sustainable and Safe Applications in Site Remediation.”

In addition, a representative of the National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office will speak at the workshop.

Massawe had this to add about federal initiatives (from the news release),

Massawe said at least 30 EPA Superfund sites across the nation are currently using nanomaterials in remediation operations.

I have written about Nano-4_Rem_aNssERs2013: Applications of Nanotechnology for Safe and Sustainable Environmental Remediations before in a Nov. 7, 2012 posting when it was first announced and where you will find links to some of my other posts on nanotechnology and environmental remediation. Rather than add links to yet a few my other postings on the topic, here’s a link to the Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies Nanoremediation Map. I’m not sure how exhaustive the listings are or how recent but it should give you some idea about the activities occurring in the US and around the world.

Danish nanotechnology-enabled product database

It’s called the Nanodatabase according to the Nov. 30, 2012 news item on Nanowerk (Note: I have removed a link),

The Danish Consumer Council and the Danish Ecological Council has in cooperation with DTU Environment developed a database, which help consumers identify more than 1,200 products that may contain nanomaterials. The Nanodatabase gives consumers a choice. [emphasis mine]

”Most consumers have no idea if there are nanomaterials or not in the goods they’re buying. And they have no way of finding out, so that they can avoid the products if they are worried about the potentially harmful effects” says Claus Jørgensen, Senior Advisor at the Danish Consumer Council.

This is why the Danish Ecological Council and the Danish Consumer Council in cooperation with experts from DTU [Technical University of Denmark] Environment has decided to launch the Nanodatabase. Now consumers can search the database to see if a certain product contains nanomaterials or is marketed as ‘nano’. This way the consumers can choose if they want the nanomaterials or not.

The database contains more than 1,200 products which contain nanomaterials or are marketed using the nano-claim. [emphasis mine]

“Until we know for sure that the use of nanotechnology is safe and the legislation is in place, we need a label that can help consumers make informed choices”, says Lone Mikkelsen [chemical expert from the Danish Ecological Council].

The two organisations hope that the English version of the database will help consumers in other countries. The hope is that consumers will report products that contain ‘nano’ or claim to be a nano product to the database.

This project reminds me of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) and their consumer products inventory. I don’t believe they’re adding to that inventory any moreas the March 10, 2011 news release announcing over 1300 nanotechnology-enabled products (as claimed by manufacturers) in the inventory appears to have been PEN’s last. I think they, like the Danish Consumer Council and the Danish Ecological Council, were hoping to raise awareness.

Women in Europe for a Common Future advises precautionary principle for manufacture nanomaterials

Another organization advises the precautionary principle when dealing with nanomaterials. This time it’s the Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) organization and they’ve just released a position paper. From the March 30, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Women in Europe for a Common Future, an international network of over 100 women’s, environmental and health organisations implementing projects in 40 countries and advocating globally for a healthy environment, has released a position paper on nanoparticles and nanotechnology: Nano – The great unknown (pdf).

WECF recognizes that nanotechnologies could bring long-term profits and overall societal benefits. However, in order to make an overall judgment, data is needed regarding the hazards, exposure, risks and ethical consequences for humans, the environment and our society as a whole.

Maybe I’m getting grumpy these days but It seems to me that the time for describing ‘nanotechnology as the latest buzzword’ has passed. Here’s the opening sentence from the position paper,

Nanotechnology, the latest buzzword in the global technology revolution, is the science of ‘small things’: the de­signing, manipulating and engineer­ing of materials at nanoscale. (p. 1)

Also on page 1 is a claim as to the number of nanotechnology-enabled products on the market,

The number of consumer products on the world market claiming to contain nanomaterials exceeded 1300 already by 2010, and there are probably more, as the actual presence of nanomaterials is dif­ficult to identify.

The source for the number of nano products is not cited although WECF does list the Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) and its product inventory in the bibliography. PEN’s inventory has no oversight (PEN has always been quite frank about this); anyone can register a product and claim there are nanomaterials in it.

Further in the position paper, Canada and California are mentioned,

Other regulatory entities too are work­ing on developing the first laws that can address the concerns on nanomaterials. Canada and the state of California, for example, took the step of imposing mandated disclosure requirements on nanomaterial use and toxicity assess­ment. Canada’s law of January 2009 targets domestic companies and institu­tions that manufacture or buy more than 1 kilogram of nanomaterial per year. According to these new regulations, these entities must now reveal how much nanomaterial they use, how they use it, and what they know about its toxicity. (p. 3)

I’m not familiar enough with the situation in California to comment on it but I am somewhat puzzled by the description of a Canadian law targeting domestic companies and institutions that manufacture or buy more than 1 kilogram of nanomaterials per year. There was a one time only requirement to report on how much nanomaterial was being imported into Canada but, as far as I’m aware, there is no law or regulation which states that this must be done on an ongoing basis. (You can read more about the reporting scheme in my April 12, 2010 posting.) This statement was not cited and I can’t find anything in the bibliography that might be the source for this information.

My problem with this position paper is that I can’t trust any of the information because the little I am familiar with contradicts their statements and they don’t support those statements with sources that I can research.

Phyto and nano soil remediation (part 2: nano)

For Part 2, I’ve included part of my original introduction (sans the story about the neighbour’s soil and a picture of Joe Martin):

I’m pleased to repost a couple of pieces on soil remediation written by Joe Martin for the Mind the Science Gap (MTSG) blog.

I wrote about the MTSG blog in my Jan. 12, 2012 posting, which focussed on this University of Michigan project designed by Dr. Andrew Maynard for Master’s students in the university’s Public Health program. Very briefly here’s a description of Andrews and the program from the About page,

Mind the Science Gap is a science blog with a difference.  For ten weeks between January and April 2012, Masters of Public Health students from the University of Michigan will each be posting weekly articles as they learn how to translate complex science into something a broad audience can understand and appreciate.

Each week, ten students will take a recent scientific publication or emerging area of scientific interest, and write a post on it that is aimed at a non expert and non technical audience.  As the ten weeks progress, they will be encouraged to develop their own area of focus and their own style.

About the Instructor.  Andrew Maynard is Director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, and a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health.  He writes a regular blog on emerging technologies and societal implications at 2020science.org.

Here’s a bit more about Joe Martin,

I am a second year MPH student in Environmental Quality and Health, and after graduation from this program, I will pursue a Ph.D. in soil science.  My interests lie in soil science and chemistry, human health and how they interact, especially in regards to agricultural practice and productivity.

Here’s part 2: nano soil remediation or Joe’s Feb. 10, 2012 posting:

Last week I wrote about phytoremediation, and its potential to help us combat and undo soil contamination. But, like any good advanced society, we’re not pinning all our hopes on a single technique. A commenter, Maryse, alerted me to the existence of another promising set of techniques and technologies: nano-remediation.

For those who don’t know, nano-technology is a science which concerns itself with manipulating matter on a very small scale.  Nano-particles are commonly described as being between 100 nanometers (nm) to 1nm, though this is hardly a hard and fast rule. (For perspective, a nanometer is one one-millionth of a millimeter. If you aren’t inclined to the metric system, there are roughly four hundred million nanometers per inch.) On such micro-scales, the normal properties of compounds can be altered without changing the actual chemical composition. This allows for many new materials and products, (such as Ross Nanotechnology’s Neverwet Spray,) and for new applications for common materials, (using graphene to make the well-known carbon nanotubes).

When we apply the use of nano-scale particles to the remediation of contaminated soil, we are using nano-remediation. Unlike phytoremediation, this actually encompasses several different strategies which can be broadly classes as adsorptive or reactive. (Mueller and Nowack, 2010) The use of iron oxides to adsorb and immobilize metals and arsenic is not a new concept, but nano-particles offer new advantages. When I wrote “adsorb”, I was not making a spelling error; adsorption is a process by which particles adhere to the surface of another material, but do not penetrate into the interior. This makes surface area, not volume, the important characteristic. Nano-particles provide the maximum surface area-to-weight ratio, maximizing the adsorptive surfaces onto which these elements can attach. These adsorptive processes a very effective at binding and immobilizing metals and arsenic, but they do not allow for the removal of the toxic components. This may be less-than-ideal, but in places like Bangladesh, where arsenic contamination of groundwater poses major health risks, it may be just short of a miracle.

Reactive nano-remediation strategies focus on organic pollutants, and seem to work best for chlorinated solvents such as the infamous PCBs. Nano-scale zero valent iron, or nZVI, is the most widely explored and tested element used in these methods. The nZVI, or sometimes nZVI bound to various organic molecules like polysaccharides or protein chains, force redox reactions which rapidly disassemble the offending molecules.

There are other advantages to these nano-molecular techniques aside from the efficiency with which they bind or destroy the offending pollutants. In reactive remediation, the hyper reactivity nZVI causes it to react with other common and natural elements, such as dissolved oxygen in ground water, or nitrate and sulfate molecules, and in the process this inactivates the nZVI. While this forces multiple applications of the nano-particle (delivered in slurry form, through an injection well), it also prevents unused iron from drifting out of the treatment zone and becoming a pollutant itself. For adsorptive and reactive remediation techniques, that active nano-particles are injected into a well dug into or near the contaminated soil and/or groundwater. When injected as a slurry, the nano-particles can drift along with the flow of ground water, effectively creating an “anti-pollution” plume. In other formulations, the active mixture is made to flow less easily, effectively creating a barrier to filter spreading pollution or through which polluted ground water can be pulled.

There are health risks and concerns associated with the production and use of nano-particles, so some caution and validation is needed before its used everywhere. However, there has already been some successes with nano-remediation. The example of PCB remediation with nZVI is taken from great success the US Air Force has had. (PCB contamination is a legacy of their use as fire-suppressants). Beyond this, while nano-remediation has not been widely applied on surface or near-surface soils, it does enable remediation in deeper soils normally only accessed by “pump-and-treat” methods, (which are expensive and can have decades-long time frames). When coupled with other techniques, (like phytoremediation), it does fit nicely into an expanding tool bag, one with which we as a society and species can use to reverse our impact on the planet, (and our own health).

Further Reading: There was no way for me to represent the full sum of nano-remediation, nevertheless nanotechnology, in this post. It has such potential, and is developing at such a rate that the attention it deserves is better measured in blogs (or perhaps decablogs). So if you are interested in nano-technology or nano-remediation, click through some of the links below.

List of popular blogs: http://www.blogs.com/topten/10-popular-nanotechnology-blogs/, including some very important ones on the health risks of nano-technology.

A cool site listing sites currently using nano-remediation: http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/remediation_map/, and another post from the same site dealing with nano-remediation [PEN webcast on site remediation]: http://www.nanotechproject.org/events/archive/remediation/

An excellent peer-reviewed article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2799454/

Citation: Mueller C and Nowack B. Nanoparticles for Remediation: Solving Big Problems with Little Particles. 2010. Elements, Vol. 6. pp 395-400.

You can read about the other MTSG contributors and find links to their work here.

I have mentioned remediation before on the blog,

soil remediation and Professor Dennis Carroll at the University of Western Ontario in my Nov. 4, 2011 posting

remediation and a patent for Green-nano zero valent iron (G-nZVI) in my June 17, 2011 posting

groundwater remediation and nano zero valent iron (nZVI) at the University of California at Santa Barbara in my March 30, 2011 posting

site remediation and drywall in my Aug. 2, 2010 posting

remediation technologies and oil spills my May 6, 2010 posting

my March 4, 2010 posting  (scroll down about 1/2 way) which is a commentary on the Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) webcast about site remediation in Joe’s list of resources

Thank you Joe for giving me permission to repost your pieces. For more of Joe’s pieces,  Read his posts here –>

Globe and Mail discovers nanomedicine

Business writer, Nick Rockel, has an October 4, 2011 article titled, Nano-technology [sic] coming to the doctor’s office, in The Globe and Mail newspaper. Dr. Jillian Buriak and her colleague, Dr.Lori West (my latest posting about their work was April 28, 2011) were heavily featured in it. From the Oct. 4, 2011 article in The Globe and Mail,

One of Dr. Buriak’s key collaborators on the transplantation project is Lori West, a U of A [University of Alberta] professor of pediatrics, surgery and immunology. Dr. West, a renowned cardiac transplant expert, is known for her discovery that children younger than two will not reject a heart from a donor with a different blood type.

That’s because the immune system is still developing during infancy. Even more remarkably, if a baby with Type A blood gets a Type B heart, it will develop a lifelong tolerance for B and AB blood.

The U of A team “functionalized” so-called stealth nano-particles with the antigens, or markers, that blood cells use to recognize each other. In animal tests, it introduced these particles into the bloodstream in an attempt to teach the body to tolerate every blood type.

Dr. Buriak, who hopes to move to more advanced models by 2015, says the nano-particles could eventually join the standard set of shots that children receive. “Later, if you ever had to have an organ transplant or a transfusion, you wouldn’t have to wait for the right one – you could just take any of them.”

Buriak’s and West’s strategy for avoiding organ rejection contrasts with the strategy used by a joint (Swedish/UK/US) team, which I featured in an August 2, 2011 posting about their work transplanting a synthetic windpipe coated with stem cells harvested from the patient receiving the new organ.

Rockel’s article goes on to provide descriptions of other nanomedicine initiatives (a mix of Canadian- and US-based projects). He employs the usual ‘war against disease’ rhetorical style common to articles about any kind of medicine even when he’s including a ‘kinder, gentler’ quote such as,

People keep asking when her field will deliver a killer app like the cure for cancer, Dr. Buriak says. “But what nanotechnology has done more than anything else is bring people together who normally would never talk to each other,” she explains. [emphases mine]

As one would expect from a business writer, the article concludes with a list of three commercially available nanomedicne products. I wish Rockel had stated whether or not he’s done additional research into these products since this list is culled from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) database. As I’ve noted before (my July 26, 2011 posting) there is no oversight provided by PEN nor does the organization require any description of how the product is nanotechnology-enable, as they openly admit.

I’m glad to see more coverage of nanotechnology and that writers from many specialties are learning about it. As for why I described Nick Rockel as a business writer, here’s his description of his work,

Market forces are one thing, but you can’t force somebody to read about the markets. Nick Rockel helps you connect with your audience. A veteran writer and editor, Nick knows how to grab people’s attention by giving them access to the financial and investment world. Whether it’s hedge funds or herding behaviour, he presents complex subjects in clear and simple terms, without any jargon or bafflegab. Most important, Nick finds the story behind the numbers and makes it resonate with readers.

He advertizes himself as providing Financial Wrting, Editing & Research.

Misunderstanding the data or a failure to research? Georgia Straight article about nanoparticles

It’s good to see articles about nanotechnology. The recent, Tiny nanoparticles could be a big problem, article written by Alex Roslin for the Georgia Straight (July 21, 2011 online or July 21-28, 2011 paper edition) is the first I’ve seen on that topic in that particular newspaper. Unfortunately, there are  some curious bits of information included in the article, which render it, in my opinion, difficult to trust.

I do agree with Roslin that nanoparticles/nanomaterials could constitute a danger and there are a number of studies which indicate that, at the least, extreme caution in a number of cases should be taken if we choose to proceed with developing nanotechnology-enabled products.

One of my difficulties with the article is the information that has been left out. (Perhaps Roslin didn’t have time to properly research?) At the time (2009) I did read with much concern the reports Roslin mentions about the Chinese workers who were injured and/or died after working with nanomaterials. As Roslin points out,

Nanotech already appears to be affecting people’s health. In 2009, two Chinese factory workers died and another five were seriously injured in a plant that made paint containing nanoparticles.

The seven young female workers developed lung disease and rashes on their face and arms. Nanoparticles were found deep in the workers’ lungs.

“These cases arouse concern that long-term exposure to some nanoparticles without protective measures may be related to serious damage to human lungs,” wrote Chinese medical researchers in a 2009 study on the incident in the European Respiratory Journal.

Left undescribed by Roslin are the working conditions; the affected people were working in an unventilated room. From the European Respiratory Journal article (ERJ September 1, 2009 vol. 34 no. 3 559-567, free access), Exposure to nanoparticles is related to pleural effusion, pulmonary fibrosis and granuloma,

A survey of the patients’ workplace was conducted. It measures ∼70 m2, has one door, no windows and one machine which is used to air spray materials, heat and dry boards. This machine has three atomising spray nozzles and one gas exhauster (a ventilation unit), which broke 5 months before the occurrence of the disease. The paste material used is an ivory white soft coating mixture of polyacrylic ester.

Eight workers (seven female and one male) were divided into two equal groups each working 8–12 h shifts. Using a spoon, the workers took the above coating material (room temperature) to the open-bottom pan of the machine, which automatically air-sprayed the coating material at the pressure of 100–120 Kpa onto polystyrene (PS) boards (organic glass), which can then be used in the printing and decorating industry. The PS board was heated and dried at 75–100°C, and the smoke produced in the process was cleared by the gas exhauster. In total, 6 kg of coating material was typically used each day. The PS board sizes varied from 0.5–1 m2 and ∼5,000 m2 were handled each workday. The workers had several tasks in the process including loading the soft coating material in the machine, as well as clipping, heating and handling the PS board. Each worker participated in all parts of this process.

Accumulated dust particles were found at the intake of the gas exhauster. During the 5 months preceding illness the door of the workspace was kept closed due to cold outdoor temperatures. The workers were all peasants near the factory, and had no knowledge of industrial hygiene and possible toxicity from the materials they worked with. The only personal protective equipment used on an occasional basis was cotton gauze masks. According to the patients, there were often some flocculi produced during air spraying, which caused itching on their faces and arms. It is estimated that the airflow or turnover rates of indoor air would be very slow, or quiescent due to the lack of windows and the closed door. [emphases mine]

Here’s the full text from the researchers’ conclusion,

In conclusion, these cases arouse concern that long-term exposure to some nanoparticles without protective measures may be related to serious damage to human lungs. It is impossible to remove nanoparticles that have penetrated the cell and lodged in the cytoplasm and caryoplasm of pulmonary epithelial cells, or that have aggregated around the red blood cell membrane. Effective protective methods appear to be extremely important in terms of protecting exposed workers from illness caused by nanoparticles.

There is no question that serious issues about occupational health and safety with regards to nanomaterials were raised. But, we work with dangerous and hazardous materials all the time; precautions are necessary whether you’re working with hydrochloric acid or engineered nanoparticles. (There are naturally occurring nanoparticles too.)

Dr. Andrew Maynard (at the time he was the Chief Science Advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, today he is the Director of the University of Michigan’s Risk Science Center) on his 2020 Science blog wrote a number of posts dated Aug. 18, 2009 about this tragic industrial incident, including this one where he culled comments from six other researchers noting some of the difficulties the Chinese researchers experienced running a clinical study after the fact.

The material on silver nanoparticles and concerns about their use in consumer products and possible toxic consequences with their eventual appearance in the water supply seem unexceptionable to me. (Note:  I haven’t drilled down into the material and the writer cites studies unknown to me but they parallel information I’ve seen elsewhere).

The material on titanium dioxide as being asbestos-like was new to me, the only nanomaterial I’d previously heard described as being similar to asbestos is the long carbon nanotube. I am surprised Roslin didn’t mention that occupational health and safety research which is also quite disturbing, it’s especially surprising since Roslin does mention carbon nanotubes later in the article.

There is a Canadian expert, Dr. Claude Ostiguy, who consults internationally on the topic of nanotechnology and occupational health and safety. I wonder why he wasn’t consulted. (Note: He testified before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health meeting in June 2010 on this topic. You can find more about this in my June 23, 2011 posting, Nanomaterials, toxicity, and Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.)

Quoted quite liberally throughout the article is researcher, Dr.Robert Schiestl (professor of pathology and radiation oncology at the University of California at Los Angeles [UCLA]). This particular passage referencing Schiestl is a little disconcerting,

Schiestl said nanoparticles could also be helping to fuel a rise in the rates of some cancers. He wouldn’t make a link with any specific kind of cancer, but data from the U.S. National Cancer Institute show that kidney and renal-pelvis cancer rates rose 24 percent between 2000 and 2007 in the U.S., while the rates for melanoma of the skin went up 29 percent and thyroid cancer rose 54 percent.

Since Schiestl isn’t linking the nanoparticles to any specific cancers, why mention those statistics? Using that kind of logic I could theorize that the increase in the number and use of cell phones (mobiles) may have something to do with these cancers. Perhaps organic food has caused this increase? You see the problem?

As for the number of nanotechnology-enabled products in use, I’m not sure why Roslin chose to cite the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies’ inventory which is not scrutinized, i. e., anyone can register any product as nanotechnology-enabled. The writer also mentioned a Canadian inventory listing over 1600 products  cited in an ETC Group report, The Big Downturn? Nanogeopolitics,

Has anyone ever seen this inventory? I’ve been chasing it for years and the only time the Canadian government reports on this inventory is in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report (cited by the ETC Group [no. 79 in their list of references] and noted in both my Feb. 1, 2011 posting and my April 12, 2010 posting). Here’s the OECD report, if you’d like to see it for yourself. The top three questions I keep asking myself is where is the report/inventory, how did they determine their terms of reference, and why don’t Canadian taxpayers have easy access to it? I’d best return to my main topic.

As for the material Roslin offers about nanosunscreens I was surprised given the tenor of the article to see that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) was listed as an information source since they recommend mineral sunscreens containing nanoscale ingredients such as titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as preferable to sunscreens containing hormone disruptors.  From the EWG page on sunscreens and nanomaterials,

Sunscreen makers offer mineral and non-mineral formulations, as well as products that combine both mineral and non-mineral active ingredients. Mineral formulations incorporate zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in nano- and micro-sized particles that can be toxic if they penetrate the skin. Most studies show that these ingredients do not penetrate through skin to the bloodstream, but research continues. These constitute one in five sunscreens on the market in 2010 and offer strong UVA protection that is rare in non-mineral sunscreens.

The most common ingredients in non-mineral sunscreens are oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, and avobenzone found in 65, 58, 57, and 56 percent of all non-mineral sunscreens on the market, respectively. The most common, oxybenzone, can trigger allergic reactions, is a potential hormone disruptor and penetrates the skin in relatively large amounts. Some experts caution that it should not be used on children. Three of every five sunscreens rated by EWG are non-mineral, and one in five sunscreens combines both mineral and non-mineral active ingredients.

EWG reviewed the scientific literature on hazards and efficacy (UVB and UVA protection) for all active ingredients approved in the U.S. Though no ingredient is without hazard or perfectly effective, on balance our ratings tend to favor mineral sunscreens because of their low capacity to penetrate the skin and the superior UVA protection they offer. [emphasis mine]

(I did find some information (very little) about Health Canada and sunscreens which I discuss in June 3, 2011 posting [if you're impatient, scroll down about 1/2 way].)

There was some mention of Health Canada in Roslin’s article but no mention of last year’s public consultation, although to be fair, it seemed a clandestine operation. (My latest update on the Health Canada public consultation about a definition for nanomaterials is May 27, 2011.)

I find some aspects of the article puzzling as Roslin is an award-winning investigative reporter. From the kitco bio page,

Alex Roslin is a leading Canadian investigative journalist and active trader based in Montreal. He has won a Canadian Association of Journalists award for investigative reporting and is a five-time nominee for investigative and writing prizes from the CAJ and the National Magazine Awards. He has worked on major investigations for Canada’s premier investigative television program, the fifth estate, and the CBC’s Disclosure program. His writing has appeared in Technical Analysis of Stocks & Commodities, The Financial Post, Toronto Star and Montreal Gazette. He regularly writes about investing for The Montreal Gazette.

I notice there’s no mention of writing in either science or health matters so I imagine this is an early stage piece in this aspect of Roslin’s career, which may explain some of the leaps in logic and misleading information. Happily, I did learn a few things from reading the article and while I don’t trust much of the information in it, I will investigate further as time permits.

In general, I found the tenor of the article more alarmist than informational and I’m sorry about that as I would like to see more information being shared and, ultimately, public discussion in Canada about nanotechnology and other emerging technologies.

Green-nano zero valent iron (G-nZVI)

I’m quite interested in patents and their possible impact on nanotechnology innovation so this item caught my attention. VeruTEK Technologies, Inc. just received notice of a patent allowance for the Green-nano zero valent iron (G-nZVI) product which was developed in collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

From the June 15, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

The product is ideal for a broad range of remediation applications including treating produced water (wastewater) generated during oil and gas and other chemical production processes.

G-nZVI works more efficiently than conventional iron catalysts, significantly increasing the rate of oxidant activity and can be used under a wide range of conditions.  Unlike other catalysts which are typically sensitive to changes in pH, G-nZVI consistently delivers high performance over a wide pH range. G-nZVI is highly effective as an activator for VeruTEK’s patent-pending Surfactant-enhanced In Situ Chemical Oxidation (S-ISCO®) treatment of hydrocarbon and chlorinated solvent contamination. The product can also be used with conventional in situ chemical oxidation (ISCO) to improve the effectiveness of traditional remediation chemistry.

The EPA works with VeruTEK on a variety of projects, concentrating on new field-proven approaches to address difficult environmental issues. According to John Leazer, Director of the Sustainable Technology Division at EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, “Patent awards are superb examples of what can be accomplished through collaborative research and development.” [emphases mine]

I have previously written about nano zero valent iron (nZVI) and site remediation in my March 30, 2011 posting which concerned a benchmarking study for nZVI and briefly in my March 4, 2010 posting (towards the end) where I summarized a Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies webcast (approximately 54 min.) on the topic.

As I understand it, the process (green or environmentally friendly) by which the nano zero valent iron is derived is the reason the VeruTek product has been awarded a patent and not because its remediation capabilities are superior to other nano zero valent iron products. From the VeruTEK’s G-nZVI product page,

GnZVI is a green synthesized nanoscale zero valent iron catalyst invented by VeruTEK and the US EPA. During the green synthesis process iron salts are exposed to naturally reductive plant material, the resultant nanoscale particles are coated in iron oxide and plant polyphenols which confer advantageous properties.  Research conducted by VeruTEK, the EPA and the University of Connecticut, published in peer reviewed journals, demonstrate the efficacy of the product and its unique chemical design.

So, in addition to being used to remove contamination, this product itself is manufactured in a relatively environmentally friendly fashion. Nice!

Of course, there’s a fair amount of discussion about how patenting impedes innovation. From Mike Masnick’s Feb. 17, 2011 article on Techdirt,

As with any “hot” technology area, it doesn’t take long for a massive, innovation hindering patent thicket to spring up. It effectively makes it impossible to bring anything to market unless you’ve got a huge patent portfolio yourself and deep pockets. Yet another example of patents harming the smaller players in the market. A new report is suggesting that the latest “hot” area to get patent crazy is nanotechnology.

However, the really worrying thing about the report is that it notes that the single largest “patent patron” in nanotechnology… is the federal government. [emphasis mine]

The report, The Big Downturn; Nanogeopolitics, that Masnick is referring to is from The ETC Group who released it on Dec. 17, 2010 so the material in it is relatively recent. They provide the only overview of the nanotechnology patent scene (Chapter 12, p. 43 PDF version and p. 36 print version) that I’ve come across so far. I find the reference to the federal government (US in this case) as being the largest patent patron interesting in light of the EPA’s collaborative relationship with VeruTEK.

One comment before you rush off to read The ETC Group’s report, the tone is very much ‘we are on the side of the angels; capitalists and governments and ‘anyone who disagrees with us in any way’ are not.”