Enlightening and noxious shades of nanotechnology!

“Anti–pollution clothing invented” – this was one of the news headlines a few days ago. Well, this is another gift from the emergence of nanotechnology. According to the inventors, “any item of clothing could be treated, but in order for the technology to work you need light. So, for example, you wouldn’t want to coat your underpants”.  Simple but interesting estimates proposed were that if all the 10 million people living in London take one gram of coating out, this would consume 10 ten tons of nitrous oxide in London every day.

If we extrapolate the above numbers, for example, for population and sun light rich countries like India where ~1.21 billion people, and China where ~1.33 billion people, are currently residing and assume that they all take one gram of coating out every day, this could consume ~1210 and ~1330 tons of nitrous oxide in India and China each day, respectively. Let us now put these numbers in the perspective of global warming. Nitrous oxide has about 300 times higher global warming (or heating) potential for 100–year time than the CO2, meaning that nitrous oxide is ~300 times more heat–absorptive than CO2 per unit of weight. This also means that removal of this significant amount of nitrous oxide in India and China, and similarly in other part of the world (making a total of ~6940 tones removal per day), may considerably assist in combating global warming issue. Of course, this is an ideal estimate with an assumption that we all can afford and agree to wear these coated dresses.

The story does not end here. The less exciting part of the story relates to adverse impacts of ‘nanotechnology integrated products’ on  human health and the environment. There are currently over thousands of nanotechnology embedded products in the market and several new products are also emerging every day. We use them on a daily basis. On the other hand, these all are also known to release nanomaterials into the various (air, water and soil) compartments during their manufacture, use or disposal after the usable life. Because of their novel physical and chemical properties, their exposure and release into the environment can have severe penalties on the human health and the environment. Like other things, luxury of making our life better using the nano products comes at the cost of taking care of these products at various stages of their life in a sustainable manner. This topic is open for debate from the perspective of manufacturers, product users, environmental and health conservation community. So, which side you are?