Friday, Feb 15, 2013, 1:25 pm
Alt Press Pick of the Week: Governments Take Sides in the Nano-Wars
For several years, Friends of the Earth Australia has been exposing the weak-to-non-existent regulation of nanomaterials in common consumer goods, from cosmetics to food. In the November 2012 issue of its magazine, Chain Reaction, Friends of the Earth Australia provide a trio of stories that demonstrate corporate deceit and government collusion in masking the potential risks of this unregulated and unproven technology in Australia.
If corporations are hiding the use of nanoparticles in their products in Australia—which they are—and the government is intentionally avoiding regulation and even controlling media spin in favor of nanotechnology—which it appears to be—then the glaring question is why? As important, if it is happening in Australia, which is a close partner of the United States across a host of policy areas, what is (and more importantly, is not) happening in the US around nanotechnology?
From Chain Reaction:
The story starts with two alarming news releases, dated 8 and 9 February 2012. One is headed: "Australians risking skin cancer to avoid nanoparticles". The other opens: "Australians are putting themselves at increased risk of potentially deadly skin cancers" because of fears about nano particles.
The releases, issued from the federal Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE), cite as evidence a government survey that one release says "showed that about 17% of people in Australia were so worried about the issue, they would rather risk skin cancer by going without sunscreen than use a product containing nanoparticles." The other release quotes a one-in-four figure. The releases get uncritically reported, re-reported, cited and distorted in countless news media, medical newsletters and science journals worldwide.
But they're not true. "I don't know where the 17 per cent comes from," said Swinburne's research design expert Dr Vivienne Waller, who analysed DIISRTE's raw and filtered survey data, "but this is absolutely not a conclusion you could draw from the survey data. The questions from which this figure appears to be obtained are not about behaviour, but about perception of risk."