Benny the Bear comes clean

Last December I highlighted the case of Benny the Bear—a soft toy using nano-silver to give it antimicrobial properties (Benny the Bear, and the case of the disappearing nanoparticles). It appeared at the time that the manufacturer was being rather coy about the use of nanotechnology, leading to me suggesting: “perhaps it’s time for Benny to come clean.”

Well, come clean he has.  And the revelation: Benny really is silver-free—uncertainty over risks, regulation and public acceptance led to the manufacturer to find a non-nano alternative.

In last Friday’s broadcast of Living On Earth—a U.S. weekly environmental news and information radio program—reporter Jeff Young interviewed Roy Sharda, a partner in Pure Plushy; the Chicago-based company that makes Benny.  According to Sharda,

“We have used nano silver in the past there’s a lot of speculation as to how much nano silver technology is accepted. Anytime you see controversy you try to sort of avoid it.”

Pure Plushy stopped using nano-silver because there were just too many questions about the material, how people will respond to its use, and how the government might regulate it.

So in the “case of the disappearing nanoparticles,” they really did disappear; to be replaced by a (presumably) more conventional EPA-approved antimicrobial.

Sharda says he still believes in nanotechnology, but clearly felt that a lack of safety information and clarity of oversight made investing in such a new and uncertain technology too much of a business risk.

Mmm.  I wonder how many other companies—small and large—are shying away from investing in nanotech because of similar concerns?

(The complete Living On Earth article “Small Technology, Big Questions” can be found here.)



This post first appeared on the SAFENANO blog in June 2008

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