Nanotechnology Precaution Is Urged

The invisibly small particles and fibers that scientists are producing in the hot new field of nanotechnology pose health and environmental risks great enough to justify banning, for now, certain cosmetics now found on the U.S. market and also halting the deliberate release of nanomaterials into the environment, according to an independent report commissioned by the British government.

Most products of nanotechnology, including atom-scale electronic components and super-strong materials, will probably prove harmless, the report concludes, offering a modicum of reassurance for the nascent research field that has been buffeted by science-fiction scenarios of techno-doom. But the joint report by Britain's Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering also strongly warns that the manufactured specks at the heart of nanotechnology -- tens of thousands of which can fit on the tip of a needle -- behave in unpredictable ways and in some cases appear surprisingly toxic.

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