Here’s a little exercise: take a pen and a blank piece of paper and write down everything you know about nano-technology. If you do this, you may find your essay to be pretty brief. You could take comfort to know you’re not alone in your ignorance of nano-technology. But perhaps you should not be feeling so comforted. In a 2013 Orion Magazine article, “Pandora’s Boxes,” this week’s guest on Sea Change Radio, journalist Heather Millar, points out that nanoparticles are ubiquitous.
They are used in everyday products: making hair dryers hotter, toothpaste whiter, sunscreen more transparent, and clothing more stain-resistant. They are also, of course, in the food we eat as additives, pesticides and other hidden ingredients. But what exactly are nanoparticles? Are they harmful or beneficial? Are you wearing some right now? Millar shows us that while there are not adequate answers to many of these questions, they need to be asked. Still, at the end of her discussion with host Alex Wise, you may remain unsure about whether to be afraid of nanoparticle technology or not. In the words of Marie Curie: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”