Nanoparticles are an ongoing emerging contaminant issue for several reasons. Nanotechnology is a rapidly evolving technology where a wide variety of engineered nanoparticles, which lack health and safety information, are being introduced into a wide array of products or uses which have the potential to lead to human exposures.
Nano refers to a billionth and nanoparticles are generally in the range of a billionth of a meter, or 1 to 100 nanometers. To put this in perspective, the average human hair is about 25,000 nanometers wide and the head of a pin is 20 million nanometers wide. Nanoparticles come in many forms and due to their small size and large surface area, they hold special and unique properties. Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating tiny particles in the nanometer range.
Nanotechnology is an ‘enabling’ technology, where nanoparticles are engineered to perform specific functions. Nanotechnology has been applied in the fields of energy, medicine, environment, electronics, consumer products, transportation and agriculture. The emergence of nanotechnology has been compared with the industrial revolution and is likely to have a significant impact on almost all areas of society as it may replace much of our manufacturing base with new processes and products.
Nanotechnology holds great promise for the future and can provide many benefits to society. In 2007, MassDEP determined that nanoparticles met its definition of an emerging contaminant. The agency’s initial step was to establish a Massachusetts Interagency Nanotechnology Committee with a key effort being to promote the safe development of nanotechnology in Massachusetts.
- Promote and participate in efforts of the Massachusetts Interagency Nanotechnology Committee with a focus to keep abreast of new information on nanoparticles and nanotechnologies and raise awareness of issues within affiliated agencies.
MassDEP web page.