Nanoparticle Gym Socks Poison Wildlife

Your socks are creating an insidious form of nanotech pollution. Sure, nanotechnology holds great promise for everything from treating cancer to making cloaking devices a reality. But critics have argued for a while it poses huge risks to the environment, and now engineers from Arizona State University are reporting that silver nanoparticles are almost certainly finding their way into local waterways courtesy of our washing machines. The source? Socks impregnated with the silver bits, which are known for their anti-microbial and anti-odor properties.

Products laced with silver nanoparticles have become popular in running shoes, socks, and even mice (the kind used for surfing the web). But silver is also highly toxic in some forms. The researchers, Paul Westerhoff and Troy Benn, say that ionic silver is "a pretty efficient" fish killer because it migrates in through the animals' gills, disrupting blood and tissue chemistries. Westerhoff and Benn note that no one's sure whether nanoparticle silver is as poisonous as its ionic form (which usually comes in the form of silver nitrate), but in simulated sock-washing experiments they found silver leaching into the water.

Source: American Chemical Society

Photo: Future Hi