Friday, July 06, 2007

Wilson Center's nano numbers racket continues a line of questioning I've been hammering away at for a while, and that is the Wilson Center's list of more than 450 nanotech-enabled "products."

They really should change it to "nanotech-claimed" products, since the center apparently simply reads the labels and takes nanotech claims at face value. The 450-500 products number is increasingly being cited by the mainstream media as absolute fact.

I'm not certain why the Wilson Center continues its unquestioning nanocount. But it is important to remember that its Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies exists as a self-appointed watchdog for environmental and health risks. The more nanotech products it can claim, the higher the public alarm. The higher the alarm, the more the media and citizens are going to come to the Wilson Center for "answers."

This is especially true if the center reinforces "the unknowns" about the health and environmental impacts of nanoparticles. When it comes to public perception, it doesn't even matter if you take whatever unknown percentage of the Wilson Center list that actually does contain nanoparticles and check to see whether they have, in fact, been studied.

The point is to not confuse the public with facts, but to lead it toward the "obvious" conclusions based on the limited information contained within the loaded question.

In my mind, the exaggerated claims by the Wilson Center are no different than the manipulation of information put out by some green organizations or get-rich-quick investment gurus.

QuoteBot: Nano 'snake-oil'
Dear Boston Globe: A 'mashup' is not a survey
Ex-FDA official concludes FDA needs more dough
Nanotech hocus group
Indigestible nanotech claim
Guaranteeeeed, Jen - U - Wiiiiine Nano!


Anonymous said...

While there are certainly plenty of problems with the Wilson Center inventory, making "exaggerated claims" about the number of consumer products containing nanomaterials definitely isn't one of them. While it likely does include a number of items that claim be nanotech but aren't, there's no doubt it excludes many, many more products which do use nanomaterials but aren't branded or labeled "nano"

Howard Lovy said...

Thanks for your comment. You do have a point. There are some companies that have decided to no longer label their products as "nano," since enough uncertainty has been created to to tarnish the once-hot marketing prefix.

Some sunscreens and cosmetics no longer advertise (not sure whether they no longer "label") their products as containing nanoscale materials.

Lately, too, products such as clothing and washers containing nanoscale antimicrobial silver no longer highlight the "nano inside" -- especially since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would regulate some nanosilver products as a pesticide (although, as this writer points out, strangely decides not to regulate another type of nanomaterial found on children's toys). Yeah, bad PR if your cleaning product is also a pesticide.

I am not certain, though, if the Wilson Center removes products from its "nano" list as the nano is removed from labels.