The Naturalproductinsider.com site recently published an interesting article by Jo Ann Shatkin, "Assessing the Benefits and Risks of Nanotechnology" Despite that title, the article focuses on the risks of nanotechnology due to a lack of knowledge about "the ultimate pathway and fate of (nanoparticles) in the body, and in the environment."
Shatkin notes that "Innovation is inherently risky, and the business risk increases with novel technologies"; that risk becomes greater in an age of "instant and constant information". The perception by the general public that nanomaterials, particularly those used in food storage, nutritional supplements, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics are dangerous or even life threatening is multiplied by the repetition of misinformation by both traditional media and internet websites. As many media critics have long noted, a lie repeated often enough becomes the "truth".
Messages that nanoindustry is selling dangerous or unsafe products need to be met by "proactive communications by industries about their efforts to evaluate product safety, protect consumers and the environment, and comply with existing laws. Beyond this, producer responsibility includes early stage product safety assessments that go beyond compliance and consider potential health and environmental impacts across the product lifecycle. New approaches to risk assessment help organizations to structure and communicate these efforts to protect workers, consumers and the environment."
Although Dr. Shatkin doesnot address it in this article, nanoindustry could learn from the experiences of other industries, such as pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and automobiles by joining forces and support the creation of a trade group that would act as the industry’s spokesperson and be able to respond to reports and studies, such as the one published earlier in July regarding the deaths in China. While many have noted that the study was seriously flawed, all that the general public has heard or read and reacted to is that people died. As the article notes, "people are easily influenced by vocal opponents", particularly when no one is answering back with credible information.