Is My Glass Half Full of Nanotubes?

"How many nanotubes can safely be in a glass of water?"

Exploring the topic of nanotechnology safety, this was a hypothetical question posed by Matthew Hull, CEO of NanoSafe, Inc.

Having never heard of a nanotube, I envisioned them floating like gel capsules in my water glass, slipping with either menace or irrelevance down my throat.

According to this Wikipedia article on carbon nanotubes, "Determining the toxicity of carbon nanotubes has been one of the most pressing questions in Nanotechnology. Results from various scientific tests on cells have so far proven confusing, with some results indicating it to be highly toxic and others showing no signs of toxicity."

Hull pointed out that nanotechnology is developing so rapidly that safety requirements haven’t caught up with the technology.

Hull helps nanotechnology companies answer the hard question:  Do we proceed with the nanotechnology we’ve developed even though hazards haven’t been determined?

Hull advises companies that do proceed to think this way:  "Let’s pursue the technology but do it with the latest technology and detectors to mitigate environmental, safety, and health risks."

I have no conception of how many nanotubes are in my glass of water, much less whether or not the quantity is a safe one.

I haven’t seen nanotechnology.  I’ve only heard and read about it.  I would like to see it.  I would like to try to understand it.  I worry that my education, and the complexity of nanotechnology, might not be a match.

People fear what they don’t understand.

What I appreciated about Matthew Hull is that 1) his business is nanotechnology safety, and 2) he knows his subject well enough to explain it using a metaphor.

For now, I’m okay with not knowing how many nanotubes are in my glass of water.

NanoSafe, Inc. helps organizations manage nanotechnology environmental health and safety (EHS) risks. It offers a full range of consulting, research, and testing services to clients throughout industry, state and federal government agencies, and university laboratories.

NanoSafe, Inc. is a member company of high-tech business accelerator and business incubator VT KnowledgeWorks, located at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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