Is that keyboard toxic?

Warning: Your keyboard could be a danger to you and the environment.

Sound preposterous? Then consider this: Some keyboards contain nanosilver, which, because of its antimicrobial properties, is increasingly being incorporated into everyday items even though studies have questioned its health and environmental safety.

Studies are raising concerns about the proliferation of nanotechnology, which can be found in numerous products, from IT components to cosmetics.

“The biggest issue around nanotechnology is that we don’t know [all of its risks]. We’re putting things on the market that haven’t been fully tested,” says Sheila Davis, executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC), a San Jose-based advocacy group.

Nanotechnology refers to work done on the nanoscale; 1 nanometer equals a billionth of a meter, or about 1/100,000 the thickness of a sheet of paper.

Use of this technology can save resources and energy. Moreover, nanomaterials offer potential benefits that could revolutionize our world. For example, they could be used to track tumors or clean up contaminated water and soil.

But scientific studies have also found potential health and environmental problems with nanomaterials.

“The nanotech boom is generating an unprecedented number of new processes and materials that pose unknown potential environmental and health hazards,” the SVTC stated in its April 2008 report on nanotechnology and its risks.

And research published in the May issue of Nature Nanotechnology suggests that carbon nanotubes, which researchers are using to build next-generation circuits, could be as harmful as asbestos.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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