Rice University’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, together with researchers from University College London and the London Business School, released the results of a major consumer research study that sought to measure public perceptions of the risks & benefits of nanotechnology.  As reported in PhysOrg,

The largest and most comprehensive survey of public perceptions of nanotechnology products finds that U.S. consumers are willing to use specific nano-containing products – even if there are health and safety risks – when the potential benefits are high. The study also finds that U.S. consumers rate nanotechnology as less risky than everyday technologies like herbicides, chemical disinfectants, handguns and food preservatives.

The study also found that American consumers did take nanotechnology’s possible health risks into consideration when evaluating whether they would purchase products containing nanotechnology:

One survey polled consumers about how likely they would be to use four specific, nano-containing products: a drug, skin lotion, automobile tires and refrigerator gas coolant. This is the first large-scale study to experimentally gauge the public’s reaction to specific, nano-containing products, and [Professor Steven] Currall said the use of scenarios about plausible, specific products yielded results that challenge the assumption that the public focuses narrowly on risk.

"It was clear that people were thinking about more than risk," he said. "The average consumer is pretty shrewd when it comes to balancing risks against benefits, and we found that the greater the potential benefits, the more risks people are willing to tolerate."

Their findings were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.  You can access the full article here (subscription required).