Nanotech Product Recall Underscores Need for Moratorium: Is the Magic Gone?

Nanotech Product Recall Underscores Need for Nanotech Moratorium: Is the Magic Gone?

News Release
ETC Group
April 7, 2006

ETC Group today renewed its 2003 call for a global moratorium on
nanotech lab research and a recall of consumer products containing
engineered nanoparticles. There is particular urgency for those
products that are ingested, applied to the body or released in the
environment. The need for action is underscored following the decision
by German authorities to recall a nanotech bathroom cleaner, "Magic
Nano" - purportedly a product of nanotechnology. At least 77 people
reported respiratory problems in late March after using the product.
Six people were hospitalized but later released when their respiratory
distress faded.(1) The company marketing "Magic Nano" is Kleinmann
GmbH, a German subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works (a US Fortune 200
corporation with 650 subsidiaries in 45 countries and 49,000
employees). Kleinmann sells "Magic Nano" in a spray pump and as an
aerosol spray.

The recall only applies to the aerosol spray.(2) There
is no information available regarding the nano chemical compound used,
nor whether the problem lies with the nanoparticles or with the
interaction between the particles and the conventional aerosol

The nanotechnology industry responded swiftly by pointing out that the
recalled product may not even contain nanoparticles; the company could
be simply taking advantage of the marketing cachet of high-tech
"nano." Michael Holman, an analyst at Lux Research in New York, told
the Washington Post that the nanotech industry is working closely with
government regulators to ensure product safety.

"They may be working closely, but they're not working swiftly - or in
the interests of public safety," says Pat Mooney, Executive Director
of ETC Group, a Canadian-based civil society organization monitoring
nanotechnology. "We don't really know if nanotechnology is to blame
for the nanotech product recall. The important point is that no
government anywhere regulates nano-scale materials if the same
chemical substance has been vetted at the macro-scale. Determining
health and safety is further complicated because there are no labeling
requirements or even agreed-upon nanotech definitions or methods of
measuring nanoparticles," says Mooney.

Nanoparticles are generally understood to be particles below 100 nm in
size - about 1/ 80,000 of a human hair - that take advantage of the
quantum effects (property changes that occur at the nano-scale). In
general, nanoparticles of 70 nm can enter the lungs while a 50 nm
particle can enter cells and a 30 nm particle can pass through the
blood/brain barrier. Not only can such tiny particles go undetected by
the body's immune system, they also exhibit properties not found at
the macro-scale. For example, aluminum oxide - used in dentistry
because of its inertness - can spontaneously explode at the nano-scale
and is being tested as a potential rocket fuel.

"It's the unpredictable property changes that make 'nano' new and
different. Given the complete absence of regulations to address those
changes, we've been calling for a moratorium on the introduction of
products like this since 2003," adds Hope Shand in ETC Group's North
Carolina office. "There are scores of products out there whose
nano-scale ingredients are escaping regulatory review and they include
anti-wrinkle creams, sunscreens, chocolate diet shakes, tooth powder,
pesticides, cooking oil, vitamin supplements and more."(3) In June
2004 the UK's Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering
recommended "that ingredients in the form of nanoparticles undergo a
full safety assessment by the relevant scientific advisory body before
they are permitted for use in products."(4)

ETC's moratorium call encompasses nanotech laboratory research. "It is
unethical to have workers conducting research or handling
nanoparticles in the absence of agreed-upon safety standards and
regulatory oversight," says Shand.

To date, the scientific community and governments have not yet
established "best practices" for this research. Scientists and
regulators must quickly establish safety standards and a mechanism for
monitoring and updating the standards as new information comes

For more information on ETC Group's call for a moratorium, see: Size
Matters! The Case for a Global Moratorium:Size Matters!

For further information, please contact:

Pat Mooney, ETC Group +1 613 241-2267

Jim Thomas, ETC Group +1 613 241-2267

Hope Shand or Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group +1 919 960-5223 +1 919 960-5223

Silvia Ribeiro + 52 5555 6326 64

1 Rick Weiss, "Nanotech Product Recalled in Germany," Washington Post,
April 5, 2006.


3 See the Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory compiled by the
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:

4 Royal Society and Royal Academy, Nanoscience and nanotechnologies:
opportunities and uncertainties, July 2004, p. 85. On the Internet:
Nanoscience and nanotechnologies