10 Matching Annotations
  1. May 2019
    1. “We didn’t know for decades that asbestos was dangerous,” says Michelle Lynch, a chemist and director of Enabled Future Limited, a London-based consultancy on chemicals and advanced materials. “We couldn’t prove that smoking was dangerous for decades. And the same [could] be true of nanotechnology.”

      First, we knew. Second, there was disinformation campaigns by powerful lobbies. Third, the analogy does not work because smoking or asbestos are two well-defined products whose dangerosity can be evaluated. The same cannot be said of "nanoparticles" - the question itself is ill posed. Maybe there is a lobby of the titanium dioxide in the food industry that try actively to prevent us from seeing the toxicity. If so, it must be aggressively investigated. What I see more is poor science and poor journalism that lump things together to create confusion and fear.

    2. Technological developments over the past two decades have meant that we can now engineer tiny particles much more easily – and their unusual properties make them useful in the food industry. They are currently used to change the texture, appearance and flavor of various foods. For example, silicon dioxide is added to salts, spices and icing sugar to improve their flow

      Again, this is deeply misleading. It gives the impression that there is something really new with all this nanotech engineering happening in the past two decades... and then talks about silicon dioxide which has been used for many more than two decades. I very much doubt that its formulation has changed much in the meantime. Here is a 1986 review "Food applications and the toxicological and nutritional implications of amorphous silicon dioxide." The difference: they use the word "colloid" (appears 19 times in the article) rather than "nanoparticle" (nowhere to be seen - but it is the same). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3011357

    3. This suite of ingredients, engineered to almost atomic scale

      It is completely false and misleading to describe nanoparticle food additives as "engineered to almost atomic scale". These are crude polydisperse materials which for most have been in use for a long time, long before the word "nanoparticle" became fashionable.

    4. have unintended effects on cells and organs, particularly the digestive tract.

      That review is actually much much more balanced than what this sentence suggests. Notably it includes the fact that the human body has been exposed to nanoparticles for millions of years and has mechanisms to deal with it, and the fact that nanoparticles can be beneficial or toxc... in other words, the fact that they are nanoparticles does not tell us much about potential toxicity.

    5. There are also indications that nanoparticles might get into the bloodstream and accumulate elsewhere in the body. They have been linked to inflammation, liver and kidney damage and even heart and brain damage.

      These examples are listed to make a general point about "nanoparticles" but they bring together two different materials, various routes of exposure, etc and simplify everything. This is absurd as can be shown by the following thought experiment: imagine the same paragraph about "molecules" lumping together drinking benzene, water and too much alcohool. Surely you would have to conclude that the unintended effects of water are something to be very wary of.

    6. the technology

      What does this mean? Nanoparticles are certainly not a technology. Even Nanotechnology is not "a technology".

    7. Health effects from titanium dioxide observed in the lab were particularly acute in young animals, which is a concern given that children are especially exposed to it through candies, chewing gum and desserts.

      This sentence really shows the absurdity of the situation. The exposition of children to candies, chewing gums and desserts is an enormous and undisputed health problem, documented, leading to huge costs and suffering. Here however the panic is about the non-demonstration of an absence of risks.

    8. “There might be concerns for toddlers when you have a small body mass that you’re eating a lot of these candy products,” says Christine K Payne, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Duke University

      Again... there IS a concern if a small body eats lots of candy. There is absolutely no doubt of that. I suppose if fear of nanoparticles reduce ingestion of candies we might see a health benefit.

    9. Hendren. She says that asking if nanoparticles are harmful is like asking: “Is every single thing on the periodic table when taken down to a certain size safe or dangerous?”

      Well exactly: it is complete nonsense. So why exactly are we doing this?

    10. “It’s a new technology;

      It is not a new technology. First, what is "it"? Nanoparticles? Their use in food? If so, as noted above, we are talking at least half a century (for the examples in this article) or millenia depending exactly on the definition. Second, it is not "a technology".