Those nano-silver socks you've been using to soak up the rank of your athlete's foot—not only are they leaching poisons into fish habitats every time you wash them, their effects on your own blood stream could be just as bad but the EPA's not doing anything about it. Fed up by government inaction, a consumer safety group is now suing the EPA for failing to regulate nanomaterials.
Silver has long been known to have antimicrobial powers, and with nanotech (and better hygiene) being all the rage, companies have added nanoparticle silver to everything from children's toys to washing machines. But as elements get smaller, the way they react to their environments change—and nobody's sure that itty bitty silver pieces aren't going to kill us all.
Studies have already shown that nano-silver is screwing with fishes and destroying benign bacteria at wastewater facilities. The legal petition asks the EPA to regulate nano-silver as a pesticide, insist on product labels, and analyse the potential human health effects (especially on children) before allowing nano-silver goods to be sold.