This feature in Consumer Reports sets out to change that, by examining both the upsides and potential risks of nanotech. Consider, for example, the environmental applications: Nanotechnnology has the potential to revolutionize battery technology and make solar cells both cheap and plentiful; and nanoparticles are already being deployed to clean toxins from polluted water. What's not to like? On the other hand, while the health and ecosystem risks of nano-particles are still largely unknown, some lab studies raise serious concerns. Take the case of fullerenes, aka Bucky Balls. Researchers found that when largemouth bass were exposed to fullerenes at concentrations of just 0.5 parts per million, the fish suffered brain cell damage after just 48 hours.
Not good, but guess what? Fullerenes are already found in many products, including one $300-an-ounce night cream that boasts "Nobel Prize-winning ingredients." In fact, as Consumer Reports makes clear, there are nano-ingredients in any number of off-the-shelf products in everyday use, from paints to sunscreens to auto parts. You just wouldn't know it.