Nanotech proponents and companies better hope this is a false alarm, but a spray designed to enhance water and dirt resistance for glass and ceramic tiles has been withdrawn from the German market after 74 users complained of difficulties breathing. Some users apparently have suffered edema (fluid collecting their lungs). It is not known if the product actually uses nano-sized particles or if the "nano" name is simply a high tech sounding marketing gimmick.
"Even if the problem here is attributed to a non-nano issue, some people and groups are on high-alert, so the industry needs to take care to mitigate these issues before a problem occurs with a real nanotech product," says Patrick Lin, research director of the Nanoethics Group. Lin is right. There are already anti-nanotech activists who would only be too happy to take advantage of any public alarm over nanotech.
Of course, perfect safety for new technologies can never be guranteed in advance, but more research on the environmental and health effects of nano-particles needs to be done. In most instances, nano-sized components will be incorporated in larger structures or be confined in enclosed manufacturing processes and unable to interact with the environment as reactive particles. However, loose nano-particles can cause problems and need extra scrutiny. If the industry doesn't police itself, the regulators surely will.