Tag Archives: health and safety

Interview with Dr. David T. Cramb; venture capital and nano and microsystems; NanoBusiness Alliance roundtable; science and artists

March 3, 2010, I posted about Dr. David Cramb, director of the Nanoscience Program and professor in the department of Chemistry at the University of Calgary, and his colleagues. They had just published a paper (Measuring properties of nanoparticles in embryonic blood vessels: Towards a physicochemical basis for nanotoxicity)  in Chemical Physics Letters about a new methodology they are developing to measure the impact of nanoparticles  on human health and the environment. Dr. Cramb very kindly answered some email questions about the study (abstract is here, article is behind a paywall).

  • Is this work on nanoparticles and blood vessels part of a larger project? i.e. Is this an OECD project; is there going to be an international report; is this part of a cross-Canada investigation into nanoparticles and their impact on health?

This is a collaborative project, but the reports that we generate will be available to Environment Canada and Health Canada. We have collaborators from both agencies.

  • In reading the abstract (for the article, which is behind a paywall and probably too technical for me), it seemed to me that this is a preliminary study which sets the stage for a nanoparticle study. In fact, you were studying quantum dots (CdSe/ZnS) and establishing that a particular kind of spectroscopy could be used to track the accumulation of nanoparticles in chicken embryos. Is this correct? And if so, why not study the nanoparticles directly?

A quantum dot is a type of nanoparticle.  So, in principle, we can apply our techniques to any other nanoparticle of interest.

  • What does CdSe/ZnS stand for?

cadmium selenide (in the centre of the nanoparticle) / zinc sulfide (coating on the outside)

  • What kind or kinds of nanoparticles are going to be used for the study moving forward from this one?

Similar but different sizes and surface chemistries. We want to understand what properties affect uptake into tissues and distribution in organs. That way we can predict risk.

  • From reading the abstract (and thanks to the person who wrote the explanation), I have a pretty good idea why chicken embryos are being used. [I’ll insert the description from the abstract here with attributions.] In another context, I have come across the notion that chickens in the US at least, I don’t know about Canada, have been so thoroughly compromised genetically that using their embryos for research is problematic. (brief note: I attended a lecture by Susan Squier, a noted academic, who had a respondent [a US scientist] claiming he moved to the UK because he didn’t feel confident experimenting with US chicken embryos.) What are your thoughts on this?

We aren’t doing genetic studies, so knowing the lineage of the embryos isn’t critical for us.

  • Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Nanoparticles are being used in many areas from cosmetics to pharmaceutical to energy. As yet, there is no evidence that the nanoscale formulation adds any risk to these applications. We in nanoscience believe that we must maintain due diligence to asess future risk and to make nanotechnology as green as possible.

Thank you Dr. Cramb for taking the time to explain your work.

On a completely other front, Harris & Harris Group a venture capital group that invests in nanotechnology and microsystems is holding a fourth quarter conference call on Friday, March 12, 2010.  From the Harris & Harris Group website,

With over 30 nanotechnology companies in our portfolio, Harris & Harris Group, Inc., is one of the most active nanotechnology investors in the world. We have funded companies developing nanoscale-enabled solutions in solid state lighting, emerging memory devices, printable electronics, photovoltaics, battery technologies, thermal and power management, next-generation semiconductor devices and equipment, quantum computing, as well as in various life-science applications of nano-structured materials.

We consider a company to fit our investment thesis if the company employs, intends to employ or enables technology that we consider to be at the microscale, nanoscale or smaller and if the employment of that technology is material to its business plan. We are interested in funding entrepreneurs with energy, vision and the desire to build great companies.

From the news release on CNN announcing the conference call,

The management of Harris & Harris Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:TINY) will hold a conference call to discuss the Company’s financial results for its fiscal fourth quarter and full year 2009, to update shareholders and analysts on our business and to answer questions, on Friday, March 19, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

For details about accessing the webcast, please follow the link to the news release.

Still on business-related nanotechnology news, the NanoBusiness Alliance will be holding its annual Washington, DC roundtable, March 15-17, 2010. From the news item on Nanowerk,

The NanoBusiness Alliance, the world’s leading nanotechnology trade association, today announced that it will convene numerous nanotechnology industry executives in Washington, D.C. from March 15 – 17 for its 9th annual “Washington DC Roundtable”. As in past years, NanoBusiness Alliance members will participate in three days of high-level meetings with Members of Congress, Administration officials, and key staff.

If you are interested in the NanoBusiness Alliance, their homepage is here.

For today’s almost final entry, I’m going back to science and its relationship to art, a topic alluded to just prior to my introduction of the Cheryl Geisler (dean of the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology at Simon Fraser University, Canada) interview. At the time I noted that art, science and technology are interconnected to justify my inclusion of art topics in this blog and, specifically, my inclusion of the Geisler interview. I just read an entry by David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis blog) which describes the impact that art can have. From the post,

… McCall’s art is certainly an influence on why I’m involved with science and technology today. You may not know it, but it’s likely you’ve seen his work in connection with reports on space, or in works of science fiction for the page or the screen …

McCall is Robert McCall, an important space artist who recently died. His website is here and Bruggeman provides other links to McCall’s works.

This bit has nothing to do with anything other than I’ve always thought thought Emma Peel was Steed’s (The Avengers) best partner and found this tribute (clips of Diana Rigg as Peel set to The Kinks) on Raincoaster here. (Scroll down the page.)

New US nanotechnology legislation for health and safety proposed; SAFENANO reviews 2009

After finding this announcement on Azonano (or you can find it on Senator Pryor’s site here),

U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today introduced legislation to address potential health and safety risks about products that contain nanotechnology materials.

The Nanotechnology Safety Act of 2010 would establish a program within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assess the health and safety implications of nanotechnology in everyday products and develop best practices for companies who employ nanotechnology. The legislation authorizes $25 million each year from 2011 through 2015.

I went looking for a comment or news release about it on the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies website and was surprised to find nothing. In fact, I couldn’t find any commentary anwyhere in my very brief search this morning.

Meanwhile, SAFENANO (an initiative of the UK’s Institute of Occupational Medicine) has produced a review of  nanotechnology environment, health, and safety developments for 2009. They cover both developments in Europe and elsewhere. From the review,

In January, the International Standards Organisation ISO published a technical report ISO/TR 12885:2008 ” Health and safety practices in occupational settings relevant to nanotechnologies “. The report provides a general background the nanoparticle risk issues and describes in some detail current practices for risk assessment, exposure measurement and control which are appropriate for use with engineered nanoparticles. This report takes an encyclopaedic view but stops short of recommending which practices are appropriate for which materials under which circumstances, leading to disappointment for some users. This report is commercially available from ISO.
This was closely followed by a report from Canada published by Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), in collaboration with CSST and  NanoQuébec The document ” Best Practices Guide to Synthetic Nanoparticle Risk Management, Report R599 “, covered much of the same ground as the ISO document but in less detail. This document also introduced the idea of using a “control banding” approach based on that described by Paik and recommends that this approach is used where there is insufficient information for a quantitative risk assessment.

It is a very interesting and useful review which you can read here.

Nanotech cosmetics and beauty products labelling; scientists in Japan worried about research cuts; gender imbalance in European science researcher community; nano game;

I mentioned the new European nano labeling regulation cosmetics and beauty products earlier this week (Nov.24.09) in the context of Germany’s resistance to it. Now officially passed(from the news item on Nanowerk),

The nanoparticle decree is part of a new 397-page cosmetics regulation approved on 20 November by the Council of the European Union, which includes ministers from all EU nations and is the EU’s main decision-making body. The cosmetic regulation states that all ingredients present in the product in the form of nanomaterials should be clearly indicated in the list of ingredients, by inserting the word ‘nano’ in brackets after the ingredient listing. The ruling defines nanomaterial as ‘an insoluble or biopersistant and intentionally manufactured material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, on the scale from 1 to 100 nm’.

Now I wonder how  long before we start hearing demands for similar product labeling in the US, Canada, and Australia? As for failing to mention other countries,  I haven’t come across any health and safety or environmental discussions in other countries but I only search English language materials so I’m not likely to find something written in Spanish, Chinese, etc.

More cuts to  scientific research and, this time, in Japan. From the news item on physorg.com,

Top Japanese scientists, including four Nobel laureates, have criticised the new government for plans to slash research budgets, warning the country will loose its high-tech edge.

“The panel’s approach of judging science purely from a cost perspective completely lacks vision,” said 2001 Nobel Chemistry prize winner Ryoji Noyori. “I wonder if the panelists are ready to face the judgement of history.”

Kyoto University professor Shinya Yamanaka, a pioneer of embryonic stem cell research, told reporters: “I am deeply concerned about the development, which is just beyond my imagination.”

“You cannot predict achievements, that’s science,” he said. “I’m worried about Japan’s future.”

It certainly sounds familiar and it seems as if there is a fad sweeping governments ’round the world as they cut back on science funding and/or focus on the short term goal of realizing financial benefits in the immediately foreseeable future. The only exception, the US, seems to be holding firm to a commitment to basic science. If you know of any other countries doing so, please do let me know.

In the three years I’ve been tracking nanotechnology research I’ve noticed that female researchers are few and far between. During a research project in 2007, I asked one of the few I’d come across about my observation and ran into a metaphorical stone wall (she really didn’t want to talk about it). Apparently this dearth of female nanotechnology researchers is a reflection of a larger issue. From the news item on Nanowerk,

Despite a rise in their numbers, female scientific researchers remain a minority, accounting for just 30% of all scientific researchers in Europe. Furthermore, the more senior positions in science and research are still heavily dominated by men. These are some of the main findings in the latest ‘She Figures’, statistics on women in science in Europe which are produced every three years by the European Commission and the Helsinki Group on Women and Science. ‘While some trends are positive, the fact that women remain underrepresented in scientific careers should be a worry for all of us,’ commented European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik. ‘This gender imbalance in science is a waste of opportunity and talent which Europe cannot afford.’

I realize this is a European report but I think it reflects the international situation and, point well taken, it “is a waste of opportunity and talent.”

For a complete change of pace: Nanovor is a new game for 7 to 12 year olds. Yes, it’s all about nano. I find the storyline a bit strange, from the news item on Nanowerk,

Nanovor is based in a rich fictional world where nanoscopic monsters, known as Nanovor live and battle inside computers. These nanoscopic dust mites ruled our still-molten Earth, long before any other species could survive. As Earth cooled and the atmosphere became oxygen-rich, the silicon-based Nanovor slipped into deep hibernation for billions of years. In 1958, when silicon was embedded within a computer chip and electricity pulsed through it for the very first time, the Nanovor sprung back to life.

The business model reminds me of the sticker craze that one of my nieces participated in when she was about 7 or 8 years old. She started collecting stickers to put into books. New themes for stickers and their books were constantly being added to the product line and she was always trying to catch up. This game which can be downloaded free has booster packs (additional nanovors) that can be purchased.  If the game becomes popular, the booster packs (the equivalent of a new sticker theme) will become essential to playing the game.

There is a video about the game at the link to Nanowerk that I’ve provided. After viewing the video I’d say the game does seems a bit male dominated especially when you go to the game’s website and look up the main characters: Lucas, Mr. Sapphire, and Drew (female) who are listed in that order here but it is early days and these things can change over time.  The company producing the game is called, Smith & Tinker, and their tag line is: Reinventing play for the connected generation.

Happy weekend!

ISEA; more about nanoparticle hazards (China); Summer Dream Literary Arts Festival

I am presenting a paper at the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) in Belfast next week. Yay! My paper is called, Nanotechnology, storytelling, sensing, and materiality and is being presented as part of the Posthumanism track. The symposium is quite an undertaking as it takes place in several locations; the main conference is in Belfast with events in Derry/Londonderry and Dublin between August 23 and Sept. 1, 2009. This means that my blogging pattern will change as a consequence of  attending the conference and events and if I do blog, I will be focusing on ISEA.

Very briefly, the article in the European Respiratory Journal about the deaths in China due to nanoparticle exposure (mentioned yesterday Aug. 18, 2009) has been published. More detailed information about the article can be found here on Nanowerk News. Dr. Andrew Maynard (Chief Science Advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies) has commented extensively on his blogs (2020 Science and SAFENANO) about the study and he has  also posted thoughts from other experts. From 2020 Science,

Professor Gűnter Oberdőrster is considered by many to be the “father” of research into the toxicology of inhaled nanoparticles.  His group at the University of Rochester has led global research in this area for over two decades.

Professor Ken Donaldson, a toxicologist specializing in workplace lung diseases, Professor Donaldson is one of the world’s leading authorities on the health impacts of inhaling airborne nanoparticles.  His group at the University of Edinburgh has conducted extensive research into the potential health impacts of inhaling nanomaterials.

Professor Vicki Stone, editor of the journal Nanotoxicology and a professor of toxicology at Napier University in Edinburgh Professor Stone is a foremost expert on the mechanisms by which nanoparticles potentially interact with the body and cause harm.

Dr. Rob Aitken, dDirector of Strategic Consulting at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh and director of the SAFENANO initiative, Dr. Aitken has a wealth of experience addressing workplace safety and health.  He is a leading international expert in developing safe practices for working with engineered nanomaterials—including nanoparticles.

Dr. Kristen Kulinowski is Director of the International Council On Nanotechnology (ICON) at Rice University, and a global leader in developing safe and responsible nanotechnologies.  Under her direction, ICON has established the foremost on-line database of nanotechnology health and environmental impact research papers, and the GoodNanoGuide—an initiative to enable people share and develop the best possible practices for working safely with engineered nanomaterials.

Please do check out Nanowerk News which offers a summary and links to Andrew’s individual postings (I’ve linked to the front page of his blogs) and do check out Andrew’s postings as it is quite illuminating. I tend to prefer Andrew’s 2020 Science blog but I think that’s because I’m more familiar with it.

Heather Haley will be giving a literary performance of her poetry at the 2009 Summer Dream Literary Arts Festival (Vancouver, Canada) an event produced by Pandora’s Collective. The festival is on Saturday, August 22, 2009 from 12 pm to 7 pm at Lumberman’s Arch, Stanley Park. It’s a free event and Heather is scheduled for 5:10 pm to 5:30 pm. You can read more about the event here (scroll down).

Nano haiku and the Good Nano Guide

So hard to imagine
Tiny atoms one by one
Make new properties
Thank you to the folks at NISE (Nanoscale Informal Science Education) Network and, of course, Robin Marks. NISE Network has added a few items to their site that I think are really great. They have an image collection which includes copyright free and scientifically vetted images well worth checking out in their Viz Lab.  Here’s a sample image of a silicon nanomembrane from the collection,
Shelley Scott, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Shelley Scott, University of Wisconsin-Madison

NISE is also offering a nano play, Attack of the Nanoscientist, courtesy of the Science Museum of Minnesota. They have the script and instructions for anyone interested in mounting the play.
The Good Nano Guide (a wiki administered by ICON [International Council on Nanotechnology] at Rice University) which Victor Jones mentioned a few weeks ago in his comments here has been cited  in a commentary on regulating nanotechnology in Nature magazine. The commentary is behind a paywall but you can find an earlier version of the article on Andrrew Maynard’s (he’s one of the authors) 2020 Science blog here.
I finally took a few minutes to check the Good Nano Guide and find it quite interesting. They offer a glossary of terms and a search engine that I used for the term ‘titanium dioxide’ amongst other features. The search engine brought up the standards for using titanium dioxide. It includes current standards and standards being developed by every organization you can imagine (IEEE, BSI, ISO, ASTM, etc.) so it seems quite comprehensive.  I do not find the glossary definitions to be helpful to me (but I’m an amateur and this project is oriented to the science community). I checked out the term nanoparticle and variants and the definitions seem vague.
Finally and because it’s Friday, I couldn’t resist this
tidbit on Nanowerk News about nanotechnology used for cleansing the colon. It originated on Tim Harper’s TNT blog here in one of his June 30, 2009 postings. Harper is associated (I think he’s the principal/CEO/president) with Cientifica, a nanotechnology business consultancy.

Nano motors in your ears, artificial tendons and public consultation in Europe

Researchers in Utah and Texas have learned that tiny tubes located on the hair cells inside our ears flex and change size to amplify sound. The researchers have coined a phrase for this, ‘flexoelectric motor’. They also compare the process to dancing and using a steering wheel in a car. The metaphors are a little mixed but I think I get the general idea. (From a writing perspective, there’s a tendency to throw a bunch of metaphors together to describe something either because no single metaphor is adequate or the writer got carried away.) For more about the ear discovery, go here.

If your tendons have ever been injured, you know that recovery is difficult and not assured so this news will be welcome. A student at the University of Manchester (UK) has developed an artificial tendon made of nanofibres, which can be grafted into the injured area. As the tendons repair themselves the artificial tendon degrades. Apparently it degrades safely as it’s made of a bio-polymer. I gather this type of polymer is used for other medical devices inserted in the body.  There’s more information here.

The European Commission has scheduled a one-day public nanotechnology consultation for Sept. 10, 2009, focusing on risk issues. The last day to submit comments prior to the meeting is June 19, 2009. They have have gathered information about nanotechnology and its risks in the past and this meeting builds on previous work. For more information, go here.

Nano definitions, jazz performances, and Visible Verse

Andrew Maynard has a brief discussion on the new ISO standard nano definitions which were released earlier in September. (The technical specification document (ISO/TS 27687:2008) is the one you want to get if you’re interested in these kinds of things. ) I was particularly intrigued by Maynard’s discussion of the classification scheme (I used to work in libraries and classification schemes and, as a consequence, have a great interest in the topic) where he discusses nano-objects and how this category solves a problem with defining nano particles. He also discusses a new report form the ISO (ISO Technical Report 12885) on health and safety practices relevant to nanotechnology. I’d suggest you check out Maynard’s blog at SafeNano.

Laura Werth a Vancouver jazz singer who I’ve mentioned before has a couple of performances next week. On Thursday, October 30th, she’ll be at the “Toast to Mandela” event at the VanCity Theatre (1181 Seymour St., Vancouver), 6 pm, tickets $50. It’s a fundraiser for “Education without Borders”. She’ll also be appearing at Capones Restauarant and Jazz Club (1141 Hamilton St., Vancouver) on Friday, October 31 and Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008. There’s no cover charge. If you want to hear Laura, try her site.

If you’re interested in video poetry, Heather Haley is hosting “Visible Verse” again this year at Pacific Cinematheque (1131 Howe St., Vancouver).  Oops, I had a link here but Cinematheque hasn’t got the 2008 Visible Verse programme and ticket purchasing information on their website yet.

Green nano and too much intellectual property

US Congress approved the reauthorization of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Act in June 2008. First approved in 2003, this new version of the act includes, for the first time, provisions for “a proactive research plan to account for environmental, health, and safety issues involved in nanotechnology research.” There’s more from the news release here. Jim Hutchison, a chemistry professor from the University of Oregon, is one of the leaders in ‘green’ nanotechnology and one the prime advocates for the new inclusion to the act. There’s an interview with Jim Hutchision here.  The Senate was supposed to be considering the revised bill now (during September 2008) but, given the financial services and structure situation in the US, I would imagine that this bill will be set aside for a time.

There’s a new report from the The Innovation Partnership (based in Canada) suggesting that intellectual property laws are stifling innovation and cutting off whole areas of research. The discussion centers largely around biotechnology but the freezing of innovation is felt everywhere not just in the sciences. There are more details in an article (which mentions nanotechnology at the end) here and in the report here. I gather that the report is advising that a new model for intellectual property law be adopted.

The entertainment industry (music, movies, books, etc.) is engaged in huge fights over intellectual property issues. (1) JK Rowling (Harry Potter books) just won her case against a publisher who was producing a Harry Potter lexicon. I gather that from a legal perspective (even with the current intellectual property laws in place) she shouldn’t have won and would likely lose on appeal. Of course, does the publisher have enough money to continue with an appeals process?  (2) The Canadian government introduced a draconian Copyright Act or revision to the current act which would make keeping a copy of an old tv programme illegal after a period of time. In other words, if you videotaped Buffy the Vampire Slayer eight years ago when it was on tv and you still have a copy, you’d be in violation of the new act. The proposed Act would create any number of new legal violations and I gather these new provisions were heavily influenced by some US-based lobby group.  From the writer’s perspective, I’m torn. I’m happy to share my work but I wouldn’t be happy to have someone copy my work and subsequently make a fortune from it.  I guess it’s a question of being fairly compensated for my work and getting acknowledgment of my contribution.

Getting back to JK Rowling and the lexicon, she’s gotten more than adequate compensation for her work from various sources and the lexicon attributes the work to her. The author of the lexicon has gone through the books and created a reference for anyone who reads Rowling’s books. Arguably the lexicon assists sales of her books because now a reader can look up a reference to a character in Book 5 who was first introduced in Book 2 and not mentioned since. The lexicon makes things easier for the reader.

EMI and nanotech plus fashion and nanoparticles

Now I can guess why I haven’t heard back from EMI (music and recording label), after asking them for permission to put an MP3 version of Flanders & Swann song (unintentional wordplay, at first), ‘First and Second Law’ on my Nanotech Mysteries wiki (the project I’m developing for my dissertation). The song is about the first and second laws of thermodynamics (there aren’t that many physics songs and thanks to Richard Jones for mentioning it in his nanotech book, Soft Machines) and it would fit in well with how I see my nano wiki developing. Apparently, EMI hold the rights which should mean a simple request and a ‘yes or no’ answer. That’s what I thought until this morning when I saw an article in the New York Times (here) by Tim Arango.

There was a takeover last year and the transition has not been smooth. At the moment, they’re planning on dropping about 1/3 of their workforce. I guess the employees have had more pressing concerns than replying to my request. Of course, the music industry seems to be in disarray as they’ve been hit with the music downloading situation which has led to questions about copyright and payments. (It’s more complicated than that and you might want to check out Techdirt (at www.techdirt.com) which comments and keeps track of these kinds of issues.) The whole thing really strikes home given the Canadian government’s recent copyright bill which will make criminals of almost everyone in the country.

The whole discussion seems ironic to me because when I was researching a paper on technology transfer about 15 years ago there was a lot of speculation as to why there was so much pirating and exchange of ‘free’ software in Asia. The consensus at the time was that these were cultural issues. Funny, the spirit that led Asian people to copy paid-for (or pirated) software and give it fot free to their friends seems remarkably similar to what we see happening globally with music. Maybe it’s cultural, maybe it’s something else.

A New Zealand researcher has found a way to introduce gold and/or silver nanoparticles into wool creating some unusual colour effects. The article with more details is available at the Nanowerk website here. If the article is to be believed you might be able to buy a $200 to $300 scarf woven in gold or silver (particles) in the not too distant future. It’s a little disconcerting that there aren’t many studies to determine if it’s healthy for humans or what the impact of these nanoparticles (which are in all kinds of products currently available) might be environmentally. It’s good to hear that the US Dept of Energy has awarded a $400,000 grant (details here) to researchers to look into these issues.

If you are interested in some pretty nanopictures, there are some ‘nano flowers’ here at Nanovida, produced by a PhD student Ghim Wei Ho. He works at Dr. Mark Welland at Cambridge University.

I didn’t find any Canadian nano today.

Nano risk aftershocks?

Did the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) postpone the ‘Small is Beautiful: A European View of Nanotech Cosmetics and Safety presentation/webcast in the wake of the latest risk concerns i.e. long carbon nanotubes resembling asbestos and the possibility that bucky balls might be toxic? (Check my last couple of postings for more info. about the studies and some links.) They haven’t sent me a notice yet but maybe they don’t want to draw attention. I hope this doesn’t turn into a cancellation as I really wanted to hear what Dr. Andrew Maynard, PEN’s Science Advisor, and L’Oreal’s science representative,  Dr.Francis Quinn, have to say about nanotech risks and safety vis a vis cosmetics.  (L’Oreal has a lot of patents. One statistic I read suggested that they rank as sixth on the list of patent holders in the US. Here’s the info. in a news release announcing the talk which has been ‘postponed’.)