Folks, do yourself a favor and walk, don't run — OK, just click through — to see the important new investigative project on the dangers of nanotechnology, and what a pitiful job our government is doing monitoring this technology we now find in our medicine, beauty aids, soaps, sunscreens, clothes and food — the very stuff we put on and in our bodies.
Nano, it's turning out, often appears to have serious health consequences when scientists look into it — even causing harmful changes in DNA. Serious stuff, my friends. But it's proliferating at a rate that far eclipses researchers' ability to gauge the technology's danger. And it's being unleashed on America's consumers with almost no regulation.
Here's a pretty good summary of the danger:
"Nanoparticles can heal, but they can also kill. Thanks to their size, researchers have found, they can enter the body by almost every pathway. They can be inhaled, ingested, absorbed through skin and eyes. They can invade the brain through the olfactory nerves in the nose.
"After penetrating the body, nanoparticles can enter cells, move from organ to organ and even cross the protective blood-brain barrier. They can also get into the bloodstream, bone marrow, nerves, ovaries, muscles and lymph nodes.
The series is by my former reporting partner, Andy Schneider, who has won two Pulitzer Prizes in the past and could be on his way to another. Andy's a remarkable reporter — a godsend, really. I'm so glad to see that after getting laid off with a bunch of us from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a year ago, he's landed where he can keep doing important journalism.
And he did this series for AOL. Yes! If you had any doubt before this that AOL intended to launch a serious news organization, this nanotech series should put those misgivings to rest. It's first-class, high-level investigative reporting on the environment, the type of stuff that's going away fast and whose paucity inspired us to launch InvestigateWest. Andy now serves as AOL's senior public health correspondent.
Andy's keeping busy this week in a seminar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, so he doesn't know the full extent of the reaction. But when I checked in with him yesterday he had more than 500 e-mails awaiting him.
My only nitpick is that AOL rolled out the whole three-part package on one day. What would have been wrong with bringing readers back each day for another new story? But still, AOL gets huge credit in my book for taking on a complicated and important environmental problem.
Don't miss this important new piece of investigative journalism.
— Robert McClure