Nanotechnology Can Harm Fish, Study Finds

Nanotechnology — the development and application of microscopic particles measured in nanometers and, for some reason, always compared to the diameter of a human hair (they’re thousands of times smaller) — has had scientists and futurists buzzing for years about the possibilities for everything from stain-proof fabrics to tiny semi-intelligent, self-replicating robots. However, yesterday brought news of a new study that raises concerns about the effects of nanoparticles on living creatures, and it has some enviros calling for greater caution and federal regulation. The study found that, in relatively high concentrations, certain nanoparticles called buckyballs damage the brains and other organs of fish and kill off tiny aquatic animals called water fleas. “There are many potential benefits of nanotechnology, but its hazards and risks are poorly understood,” said researcher Eva Oberdoerster, who nonetheless emphasized that the study is a “yellow light, not a red one.”