Friends of the Earth on Nanotech: It’s No Friend of the Earth
Friends of the Earth released its much-anticipated report on the climate costs of nanotechnology yesterday, revealing that while many have touted the potential of nanoparticles to do things like make solar panels smaller and more efficient, in fact overall nanotechnology is more of a threat than a solution.
“Despite claims that nanotechnology can limit climate change and promote energy efficiency, we’ve found that the use of nanotechnology actually comes at a large environmental cost,” said Ian Illuminato of Friends of the Earth U.S., a coauthor of the report. “Rather than substantively reducing our environmental footprint, it instead allows people to continue with ‘business as usual’ and avoid serious improvements in energy efficiency and behavioral changes.”
In essence the report accused the nanotechnology industry of greenwashing. While nanoparticles could be helpful in the advancement of renewable energy, they’re most often being used by the petrochemical industry to find more oil and create more chemicals. Moreover, any manufacturing process making use of nanoparticles requires a large amount of energy. So no matter what the result, the process itself is energy-intensive.
“Very few people have looked beyond the shiny promise of nanotechnology to try and understand how this far-reaching new technique is actually developing,” says 350.org founder Bill McKibben.
Above and beyond the energy costs associated with nanotechnology, the report delved further into public health risks and came out with some disturbing conclusions.
“Early research has shown that nanotubes – for use in electronics, specialty car parts and the like – can cause mesothelioma, the deadly cancer associated with asbestos exposure,” the report’s authors wrote.
They also found that, in addition to concerns over its toxicity to humans, nanosilver is fairly toxic to the environment. “The release of nanomaterials, particularly nanosilver, into the environment, drastically increases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere,” according to the report.
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