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Saturday, 09 December 2006 06:48

Little fear of a nano-bot planet amongst consumers

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People are less afraid of nano-technology - tiny man-made machines, invisible to the human eye - than they are handguns, according to a US survey.

US consumers are willing to use nano-technology products - even if there are health and safety risks - when the potential benefits are high. They are more concerned about herbicides, chemical disinfectants, food preservatives and even handguns, according to a study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The survey of 5500 people defined nano-technology as involving "human-designed materials or machines at extremely small sizes that have unique chemical, physical, electrical or other properties". The study was conducted by researchers at Rice University`s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, University College London and the London Business School.

"Measuring public sentiment toward nano-technology lets us both check the pulse of the industry right now, and chart the growth or erosion of public acceptance in the future," said lead researcher Steven Currall.

"It was clear that people were thinking about more than risk," he said. "The average consumer is pretty shrewd when it comes to balancing risks against benefits, and we found that the greater the potential benefits, the more risks people are willing to tolerate."

"By some estimates, products containing nano-technology already account for more than $US30 billion in annual global sales, but there is concern that the public`s fixation with nano-technology`s risks - either real or imaged - will diminish consumers' appetite for products."


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