Nanoparticle Gym Socks Poison Wildlife

Illustration for article titled Nanoparticle Gym Socks Poison Wildlife

Your socks are creating an insidious form of nanotech pollution. Sure, nanotechnology holds great promise for everything from treating cancer to making cloaking devices a reality. But critics have argued for a while it poses huge risks to the environment, and now engineers from Arizona State University are reporting that silver nanoparticles are almost certainly finding their way into local waterways courtesy of our washing machines. The source? Socks impregnated with the silver bits, which are known for their anti-microbial and anti-odor properties.

Products laced with silver nanoparticles have become popular in running shoes, socks, and even mice (the kind used for surfing the web). But silver is also highly toxic in some forms. The researchers, Paul Westerhoff and Troy Benn, say that ionic silver is "a pretty efficient" fish killer because it migrates in through the animals' gills, disrupting blood and tissue chemistries. Westerhoff and Benn note that no one's sure whether nanoparticle silver is as poisonous as its ionic form (which usually comes in the form of silver nitrate), but in simulated sock-washing experiments they found silver leaching into the water.

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Source: American Chemical Society

Photo: Future Hi

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DISCUSSION

Corpore Metal

@Michael Reilly:

I agree that we should be assessing risks but as usual things are probably going to happen too fast and I know we are going to miss something somewhere.

—Not even stuff involving molecular manufacturing, just stuff involving those desktop factories that Neil Gershenfeld and others are talking about. Imagine one of those things hooked to the Internet with bad security. Suddenly it starts filling your house with fabricator spam. I've actually had scary dreams about this. Ay!