Nanotoxicolgy: The Surprising Small Scale Threat
by Showkat Hassan and Parth Malik
Science and technology has made so rapid and vast progress throughout the world that in the present context, practically nothing seems out of human reach. The extraordinary measuring and sensing tools have proved to be revolutionary gifts for measuring and analyzing the performance of different substances. Materials have since long occupied the center stage of scientific advances. The variation of dimensions and tuning of energetic potential as a function of overall size of the object forms the fundamental aspect of the matter at nanoscale. The wonderful and unique aspects of nanomaterials and their applications to the technical domains have overshadowed the possible gloomy threats. The extremely small dimensions of the nanomaterials makes them easy candidates to escape recognition by the natural and biological safeguard mechanisms which results or manifests in their threats getting multiplied. The foremost threat which nanomaterials pose is to the respiratory system of living organisms. The highly volatile and unprecedented nature of nanoeffluents like those of carbon nanotubes in vapor form upon chemical processing, the carbon nanoparticles emitted as strong byproducts from the diesel engines and so many other research and development activities in together summate the risk of toxicology to a record total. The biggest concern is the unprecedented nature of the nanowastes. Every time, each kind of such waste material has the potential to trigger different responses, chiefly because they have highly different chemical, physical and biological activities. These materials become far more threatening when they are engineered for intentional requirements. For example, the surface of a reactive metal oxide may be coated by a particular formulation of a nanomaterial. This makes the overall assembly of such materials rough and tough and also prevents the natural biodegradation of such materials. The phenomenon of bio persistence, bioaccumulation holds special relevance as far as nanomaterials are concerned. They can result in alarming environmental threats through their interactions with soil, water and air.
The most significant evidence of nanotoxicological threats is well observed by most of the developed countries having special environmental committees of the experts to deal with nanopollutants risk to the environment and biodiversity. There is therefore a strong need for assessment of the nanoscale threats which can manifest themselves as the unnoticed threats in the environment. No doubt, metallic nanoparticles are used for some novel applications in everyday fields of life but their use is full of risk at every moment. They have to be used in a very selective manner. Particularly the materials like quantum dots, silver and gold nanoparticles deserve special attention and awareness regarding the possible threats they can result in should be emphasized and encouraged for in the academic curricula.
In all, we can say that wherever there are roses in life, thorns are almost irreplaceable. So, we should not scale up in Science forgetting the nature. Rather our aim should be to focus on maximizing the benefits and minimizing the negatives. Further, we should not only use nanomaterials for commercial technological purpose and not for personal use till the facets of this unique science are not understood and considered properly.
About Author / Additional Info:
We are both Ph.D scholars at Central University og Gujarat, Gandhinagar (India). Registered in Center for Nanosviences. Showkat Hassan is having interest in nanoscale physical phenomenon whereas I focus on the domain of Nanobiotechnology.