Airdate: Feb 10, 2020
Scientist: Linsey Marr
The places where engineered nanomaterials - like Fullerenes - are being manufactured have the potential for the highest exposure to people of toxic materials.
FullerenesFullerenes are a type nanomaterial. They're tiny bits of matter; some of them found naturally and others have been engineered. Scientists have been investigating whether the use of Fullerenes in medicines and other products could have unintended consequences. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Marr: Fullerenes are being touted for use in medicine to deliver drugs in the body to specific organs, for example. So they could be manufactured in the lab and then attach, you could attach certain drugs to them and then send them to certain parts of the body.Lindsay Marr is the Charles P. Lunsford professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.Marr: We've looked at how Fullerines are generated from a natural combustion processes, such as if you mow your lawn or if you're burning coal. And we've also looked at engineered ones, and put them into a chamber and see how they react with ozone. So the idea is that use of fullerenes could release them into the atmosphere. They could then react with ozone or other compounds in the atmosphere and then be changed. And maybe they could become more toxic and of concern.I think as nanotechnology continues to grow and there's more potential for releases of engineered nano materials into the environment, we should keep an eye on how much is being released of what types. And keep in mind that these releases do not necessarily stay unchanged in the environment, that they can undergo transformations that could matter to us because they could affect the toxicity of these materials. I think the place where I'd be most concerned is the occupational or workplace exposures, where engineered nano materials are being manufactured. Because I think those are the places with the potential for the highest exposure to people.Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.