In support of a proposal for a dramatic increase in federal funding for nano-related EHS research, a top nanoscientist was recently quoted as saying:  "Workers are society’s canaries-in-the-coal mines when it comes to the environmental, health and safety effects of new materials — and nanoscale materials are no different."  Inside OSHA, Vol. 14 No. 2, January 22, 2007.

JCM:  This analogy misses the mark in my book.  Workers are the often first to face exposure to health risks from new technologies, and often also experience exposure at higher rates than the rest of the population.  However, the canary concept could be misconstrued as implying nano-companies are indifferent to possible worker exposure and will only take action once the canary gets sick or dies. 

Unfortunately, the old Police song from my college days has been stuck in my head since I read the Inside OSHA article.  I thought if I post the song’s lyrics here, I might find some relief.

Police — Canary in a Coal Mine

First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect
Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect
You live your life like a canary in a coal mine
You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line

Canary in a coal mine