Nano Material Hazards

Recently, health hazards in Outdoor industry products have surfaced. Perhaps the most famous is the BPA threat publicized by the Canada’s Health Ministry. BPA is used in plastic baby bottles but also many popular polycarbonate water bottles utilize the material to increase impact resistance. This has led at least one manufacturer to produce BPA-free bottles.

Additionally, carbon nanotubes have been finding their way into a variety of Soldier Systems items. They are used for such applications as body armor and the installation of serial buses in load carrying harnesses. For some time now there has been concern that nano tubes when broken, work much like asbestos as a threat to healthy lungs. This is particularly disconcerting as the applications that make nanotubes most desirable are exactly the ones that will result in their breakdown and release of potentially dangerous materials.

The most recent alarm on potential health threats has been by the UK’s Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP). While they don’t go so far as to say that wearing fabrics with silver nanofibers is hazardous to your health, they do caution that further research is needed and that as their use increases, they may have an aggregate effect on the environment as those garments are laundered. The major concern is that the silver will leach into the water table and scientists are unsure about its effect on the environment.

The US military has not traditionally been known to rush to reaction at environmental threats but as the US government overall becomes more green it will be interesting to see how they react to this information. Many recently issued garments feature silver nanofabrics in order to control the growth of bacteria and associated odor.

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