Unknown risks in the big business of tiny science

Stephen Beard Mar 28, 2007
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Unknown risks in the big business of tiny science

Stephen Beard Mar 28, 2007
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

LISA NAPOLI: The Council of Science and Technology in Britain is calling for a closer look at a growing and lucrative science: nanotechnology. The fear is the potential health and environmental hazards haven’t been studied closely enough. I talked to our European bureau chief Stephen Beard about the nanotechnology warning this morning.

STEPHEN BEARD: This is the science of the very small, manipulating tiny, tiny particles of material tens of thousands of times smaller that the width of the human hair. The hope is that this could lead one day, for example, to things like tiny computerized capsules that can be injected into the bloodstream, penetrate individual cells, spot a problem and fix it. So we’re talking about a pretty extraordinary science here.

NAPOLI: Why is that the Brits are all of a sudden sounding dubious though about nanotech after they’ve invested a lot of money in it?

BEARD: Well, this British government scientific advisory body, the CST, says the problem is we don’t really know what the risks are. Not enough money has been spent on researching the physical and environmental potential hazards of this technology.

NAPOLI: Right the R&D is getting the bulk of it from the private companies for sure.

BEARD: That’s right.

NAPOLI: This has the potential to be a huge business, which is why so much money is being poured into the development of it. Can you talk a little bit about that?

BEARD: It seems actually it is already pretty big business, it’s just that we haven’t noticed for obvious reasons. According to one study, there are 360 consumer goods in use which involve nano know-how. These range from laptops to a kind of tea. Within 10 years, according to one estimate, this industry could be worth $2.5 trillion, so a very big business.

NAPOLI: For a very small technology. Thanks Stephen.

BEARD: OK Lisa.

NAPOLI: That’s Marketplace’s Stephen Beard in London.

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