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Monday, 28 May 2012

Nanopollution


This is an indisputable fact: regardless of the origins of nanoparticles (naturally occurring nanoparticles or nanoengineered nanoparticles), they are present in the environment. Nanopollution exists in the environment and affects the entire biosphere (including Humans).




Introduction

Following my last article ("The Roots of Nano-Fear Decoded"), I start here an atte
mpt to point out ways and propose solutions in order to demystify the nano-fear.

From what I can understand, the roots of fear seem to be of the fasciculate 
type. In other words, there are not a "primary root" and "secondary roots". I choose to state that they all have approximately an identical importance.

Addressing nanopollution without addressing nanotoxicity is in theory and in practice an artificial effort, I'd say. Nanopollution exists in the environment and affects the entire biosphere (including Humans). The entire biosphere is exposed to nanotoxicity and, in turn contaminates the environment. We are therefore facing an indissociable 
circleHowever, due to space limitations, this article will try to address nanopollution. Later I will write about combating nanopollution. Only then I will address nanotoxicity. Naturally, what I write is in line with my way of understanding this issue.

Before I start writing about nanopollution, I propose a brief analysis of pollut
ion as a concept.


Pollution

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants in the natural environment. Pollution causes instability, several disorders, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem.

The ecosystem comprises:

  • Physical systems;
  • Systems of living organisms (including humans)
Pollution may involve:
  • Chemicals;
  • Energy in various forms (e.g. heat, noise, radiation).
Pollutants are the components of pollution. Pollutants may be coming from either:
  • Naturally occurring substances (or energies);
  • Substances (or energy) that are strange to the environment (contaminants).
Let us focus on chemical substances as pollutants.


Nanopollution


I will continue to follow the same thinking regarding pollution.

Nanopollution is the introduction of nanosized contaminants in the natural environment. Nanopollution causes instability, several disorders, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem.

The ecosystem is the same, whether we are addressing pollution or nanopollution. 
The ecosystem comprises:
  • Physical systems;
  • Systems of living organisms (including humans)
Nanopollutants are the components of nanopollution. Nanopollutants may be coming from either:
  • Naturally occurring nanosized substances;
  • Nanosized substances that are strange to the environment (nanocontaminants).
Translating "nanosized substances" to a more accurate term, I would use the term nanoparticles (NPs).

In fact, there are two types of NPs causing nanopollution:
  • Naturally occurring nanoparticles;
  • Nanoengineered nanoparticles (NENPs) or, in other words, engineered nanoparticles.
Regarding naturally occurring nanoparticles, nature produces and always produced nanoparticles. I believe that naturally occurring NPs have always existed on our planet, even before there was life. Follow some examples of naturally occurring nanoparticles:
  • Nanoparticles expelled by volcanoes, along with ash and other natural materials;
  • Nanoparticles naturally occurring on the ocean spray; formed by the violent burst of waves;
  • Nanoparticles naturally occurring in mineral composites.
How easily it can be concluded, naturally occurring nanoparticles have never constituted an obstacle to that life came up our planet. These naturally occurring nanoparticles also have never been an obstacle to biological evolution of species until today.

With reg
ard to NENPs, I believe they only recently came into existence through the processes of nanofabrication.

As I pointed out on "The Roots of Nano-Fear Decoded"
NENPs are nanoparticles produced by Humans that have been specifically designed for a specific function (e.g. packaging coating, protection of radiation in sunscreens).


How Can The Environment Spread Nanoparticles to The Entire Biosphere?

Nanoparticles are present in the air, in the water and in the soils. All requirements for the entire biosphere is contaminated with the ubiquity of nanoparticles are gathered.


For example, nanoparticles present in the air:
  • Mix with humidity also present in the air. Consequently, precipitation (e.g. rain, sleet, snow) become contaminated with nanoparticles. Precipitation reaches the soils and the open water (oceans, seas, rivers, lakes); 
  • Are incorporated in plants through their by the aerial components, for the processes of photosynthesis and respiration; 
  • Are incorporated in animals through respiration; 
  • Contaminate food exposed to air; 
  • Contaminate drinking water exposed to air; 
  • Are mixed with open water (e.g. oceans, rivers, streams, creeks, lakes); 
  • Are infiltrated in soils.
For example, nanoparticles present in the water:
  • Pass into the atmosphere accompanying the water vapour during the evaporation of water;
  • Contaminate soils (trough groundwater);
  • Are absorbed by roots of aquatic plants;
  • Are absorbed by aquatic animals;
  • Contaminate food during the process of washing with water and when water is used to cook.
Nanoparticles present in soils:
  • Pass into the atmosphere accompanying the water vapour during the evaporation of water; 
  • Are absorbed by underground roots of terrestrial plants; 
  • Are absorbed by underground and terrestrial animals; 
  • Contaminate groundwater. 
On the other hand, nanoparticles present into plants and animals traverse the entire food chain until reach Humans.

Therefore, this is an indisputable fact: regardless of the origins of nanoparticles
(naturally occurring nanoparticles or nanoengineered nanoparticles), they are present in the environment and humans are exposed to them.

2 comments:

TAREK said...

A very helpful explanation to the world of Nano particles, But I think that the world pollution is not convincing to me specially about the naturally occurring nanoparticles.
They are the consequence of the reaction of living organisms with phonons and dark matter; to create matter.
They are not harmful to the human being as their role is to build not to destruct.
Their benefit is immense to nanotechnology once managed, of course the knowledge of how, when and where they produce is important.
Bio nanotechnolgy is the safest, cleanest and the less costly,As I explained in my blog about the nanocharacterization @ http://spaceandhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/higgs-boson-manifesto.html

Luís Bastos said...

Dear Tarek, thank you for your constructive comment. I admit that you're right and I have explained not very clearly. After all, naturally occurring pollutants are actually pollutants? If nature produces mechanisms for its own balance, what is the reason to consider naturally occurring nanoparticles as pollutants? Best Regards, Luís

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