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What Is Nanotechnology and How Can It Change Our Lives For the Better?

Nanotechnology is the study of extremely small particles, or nanoparticles, and how these can be manipulated and controlled in useful ways. Nanotechnology is currently being used in hundreds of common products, including batteries, sunscreens, antibacterial products, scratch-resistant coatings, electronics, plastics, and even food and cosmetics.

But this technology is so new, many of us know very little about it. There are also many concerns about its safety for human and ecological health. Let?s shed some light on this important topic and its potential impact on our lives.


Nanoparticles are any particles of matter small enough to be measured on the nanoscale. This is the same scale used to measure atoms and molecules. In fact, many biological and natural systems occur at the nanoscale. The protein hemoglobin that carries oxygen in our blood is only 5 nanometers, or 5 billionths of a meter, in diameter.

Other natural nanoparticles are being investigated for possible use in nanotechnology. For instance, scientists are currently researching the strength and flexibility of spider silk, which is reinforced by natural nanoscale crystals. And they have already copied the nanostructure of lotus leaves to create water repellent surfaces in fabrics and other materials.


What?s wrong with regular-sized particles, you may ask? The difference lies in what scientists call the ?quantum effect.? Larger particles of matter, such as gases, liquids and solids, have very predictable qualities. Whereas, matter can have unexpected behaviors at the nanoscale. These quantum effects can include properties such as greater strength, lighter weight or increased chemical reactivity.

For example, gold nanoparticles react differently to light than their larger-sized counterparts. Gold can appear red or purple on the nanoscale. Also, it?s been found that gold nanoparticles selectively accumulate in tumors. It?s not known why they do this, but scientists have been able to use gold nanoparticles to create more precise imaging and laser destruction techniques that can target tumor cells and avoid harming healthy cells.

Another important quality of nanoparticles is their significantly larger surface area compared to regular particles. The surface area of a particle is what allows for reactions with surrounding materials. A large particle of matter will have a limited amount of surface area. Whereas, there can be trillions or more nanoparticles in the same amount of space as a larger-sized particle. That means they can have trillions of times more surface area for reactions.

This is important for many different technologies. Scientists are researching nanoengineered batteries and fuel cells, where enhanced chemical reactivity could potentially produce cleaner, safer and cheaper ways to produce and store energy. Nanoparticles? larger surface area also holds great potential for products such as water filtration systems, pharmaceuticals and clothing insulation.


The use of nanotechnology has exploded over the past few decades. More and more manufacturers are including nanomaterials in a vast array of products. In fact, over 1,600 products are known to contain nanoparticles today. And research is ongoing, so you can expect to see a lot more in the near future.

These are some examples of current products and technologies that incorporate nanomaterials.


Nanotechnology is used in many areas of health care, including wound dressings with nanoscale silver as an anti-bacterial agent, and synthetic bone based on nanoparticles that can be inserted into areas where natural bone is missing or broken.


The field of nanoelectronics has created many advances, including faster, smaller and more portable electronics with increasingly large amounts of data storage. Ultra-high definition screens use nanotechnology to produce more vibrant colors and improve energy efficiency. Nanoscience is also behind bendable and flexible electronics that are being introduced in medical and other applications.


Nanoscale additives and surface treatments have created fabrics that resist wrinkling, staining and bacterial growth. Some fabrics can even provide lightweight ballistic energy deflection in personal body armor.


The Shenhua Group, one of the world?s largest coal companies, is using nanotechnology to liquify coal and turn it into gas. This could bring a major change to global energy production as countries with large natural reserves of coal, such as China and the U.S., now have the potential to manufacture gasoline.


Certain sunscreens contain molecularly-engineered nanomaterials that absorb more light than normal brands and spread more evenly on your skin compared to the thick, sticky sunscreens you might be used to.


Encapsulating or suspending ingredients in what?s called nanospheres or nanoemulsions can increase their penetration into your skin. Many different products use this in some form. For example, in 1998, L?Oreal introduced Plentitude Revitalift, an anti-wrinkle cream that used polymer nanocapsules to deliver active ingredients into deeper layers of skin.


Nanoparticles made from clay are being used in lightweight bottles, cartons and packaging films to create an impermeable barrier to gasses such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. In addition, storage containers are being made with silver nanoparticles embedded in the plastic that will kill any bacteria present.


Nanotechnology has the potential to transform our lives for the better. Cheap, lightweight solar plastics are being developed that could make solar energy more widely available. Nanoparticles have been discovered that can easily clean up toxic chemical spills and air-borne pollutants. Lightweight nanomaterials may even hold the key to expanding space exploration.

Despite these potential gains, nanotechnology has a shadow side. It?s a very new science, and therefore, we have no way of knowing the long-term effects of releasing nanoparticles into our environment.

Studies funded by agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency are looking at potential safety concerns associated with nanoscale materials. But, it?s difficult to keep up with this rapidly expanding technology.

And perhaps more concerningly, the nanotechnology industry is largely unregulated. Companies aren?t required to label products containing nanoparticles, and there are no recognized standards on production and handling of nanomaterials. The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety recommends that precautions be in place to avoid worker exposure to nanomaterials, but this is still primarily left in the hands of the employers.

In addition to human health concerns related to nanoparticles, we also do not know the potential affects on our planet and ecosystems. Studies have shown that some nanomaterials are toxic to species such as algae, invertebrates and fish. Disturbing evidence has also found that nanomaterials can be transferred across generations in both animals and plants.

One of the best ways to keep yourself and our planet safe is to stay informed about this new technology. Check if any of your commonly-used products contain known nanoparticles on The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies website. Speak to your local politicians about what they?re doing to ensure the products of nanotechnology are safe.

And don?t hesitate to share what you know with others. The more everyone knows about nanotechnology, the more likely it is that manufacturers will be held accountable to effective health and safety standards.

Related at Care2

Will Nanotechnology Help or Hurt Our Environment?
What Is Rising CO2 in Our Atmosphere Doing to Our Food?
5 Household Items You Should Be Buying Organic

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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What Is Nanotechnology and How Can It Change Our Lives For the Better?

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8 Climate-Friendly Superfoods

Superfoods?are gaining popularity?and for good reason. They directly?support the immune system, reduce?inflammation, support mental health,?pack a nutritional punch,?and boost energy, stamina and longevity.

Here are eight?superfoods that are not only good for you, but also good for the planet:

1. Crickets

Crickets are loaded with protein. They also ?thrive in hotter climates and survive off decaying waste and very little water and space,??Mother Jones?reported.?For this reason, crickets and other insects have?been?hailed?as the ?next climate-friendly superfood.? They can be ground into baking flour or protein powder, and added?to cookies, brownies or?milkshakes.

While eating crickets?or any type of insect for that matter?hasn?t completely caught on in the U.S., it?s making progress. Last year, fast food chain?Wayback Burgers?put out?a fake press release as an?April Fool?s joke?about insect-filled milkshakes, but the idea was so popular that they?rolled out their?Oreo Mud Pie Cricket Protein Milkshake.

Related: Are Your Ready for Cricket Flour Cookies?

2. Pulses

They?re the dried seeds of lentils, beans and chickpeas?and they’re super healthy. They already make up 75 percent of the average diet in developing countries, but only 25 percent in developed ones, according to the UN.

That could all change, though. Pulses contain 20 to 25 percent protein by weight, approaching the protein levels of meat, which average?30 to 40 percent. They also require far less water than meat to produce.

3. Amaranth

?Amaranth is the new quinoa,? trend expert Daniel Levine told?The Huffington Post. It?s a grain-like seed that cooks quickly and can be added to salads, soups and stews. It?s a complete source of protein just like quinoa, and it is loaded with?fiber,?B vitamins and?several important minerals. Additionally, it?s been?shown?to reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

4. Kefir

Kefir?is the trendiest?fermented?food right now (sorry, kombucha and kimchi).?It?s high in nutrients and?probiotics, and is incredibly beneficial for digestion and?gut health.?Many people consider it to be a healthier and more powerful version of?yogurt.

To make it,??grains? (yeast and lactic acid bacteria cultures) are added to cow or goat milk. The concoction ferments over a 24-hour period and then the grains are removed from the liquid.

Related: 10 Vegan Sources of Probiotics


Sometimes written as tef or t?ef, this pseudo-grain (it?s technically a seed)?has a high nutritional profile and a taste similar?to that of amaranth or quinoa. This?ancient grain?has survived for centuries without much?hybridization or processing.?Like most other ancient grains, it?s high in fiber, calcium and iron.

Traditionally cultivated in?Ethiopia and Eritrea, teff can be grown in a variety of conditions.?Teff ?thrives in both waterlogged soils and during?droughts, making it a dependable staple wherever it?s grown. No matter what the weather, teff crops will likely survive, as they are also relatively free of plant diseases compared to other cereal crops,??Whole Grains Council?said.

?Teff can grow where many other crops won?t thrive, and in fact can be produced from sea level to as high as 3,000 meters of altitude, with maximum yield at about 1,800-2,100 meters high,? the council said. ?This versatility could explain why teff is now being cultivated in areas as diverse as dry and mountainous Idaho and the low and wet Netherlands.?

6. Moringa

It?s often called the ?the miracle tree? or the ?tree of life,? according to?TIME. It?s commonly found in?Asian and African countries, and almost every part of it?pods, leaves, seeds and roots?is edible. It?s a?good source?of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and iron. Not only does it pack a nutritional punch, it?s also a?fast-growing, drought-tolerant plant?that is a promising biofuel and medicinal source.

Related: Why Moringa is Known as ‘The Miracle Tree’

7. Kelp

Kelp grows super fast (up to two feet per day), and requires neither freshwater nor fertilizer. ?And rather than contributing to our carbon footprint, as many fertilizers and food sources do, seaweed cleanses the ocean of excess nitrogen and carbon dioxide,??Mother Jones?reported. One kelp?farmer on the Long Island Sound even?claims?he?s?restoring?the ocean while producing a sustainable food and fuel source.

8. Waste-Based Food

This isn?t as weird as it sounds. In order to reduce?food waste, restaurants are finding?creative ways?to use the edible?parts of plants and animals that are often thrown out. Last year, award-winning chef Dan Barber held a?two-week pop-up?at Blue Hill, his restaurant in New York City, where he cooked with spent grain, cocoa beans, pasta scraps and?vegetable?pulp.

Written by Cole Mellino. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.?

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Diet and Climate Change: Cooking Up a Storm

One of the most prestigious medical journals in the world editorialized that climate change represents the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Currently, chronic diseases are by far the leading cause of death. Might there be a way to combat both at the same time? For example, riding our bikes instead of driving is a win-win-win for the people, planet, and pocketbook. Are there similar win-win situations when it comes to diet?

As I discuss in my video below, the foods that create the most greenhouse gases appear to be the same foods that are contributing to many of our chronic diseases. Researchers found that meat (including fish), eggs, and dairy had the greatest negative environmental impact, whereas grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables had the least impact. And not only did the foods with the heaviest environmental impact tend to have lower nutritional quality, but they also had a higher price per pound. So, avoiding them gives us that triple win scenario.

The European Commission, the governing body of the European Union, commissioned a study on what individuals can do to help the climate. For example, if Europeans started driving electric cars, it could prevent as much as 174 million tons of carbon from getting released. We could also turn down the thermostat a bit and put on a sweater. But the most powerful action people could take is shift to a meat-free diet.

What we eat may have more of an impact on global warming than what we drive.

Just cutting out animal protein intake one day of the week could have a powerful effect. Meatless Mondays alone could beat out a whole week of working from home and not commuting.

A strictly plant-based diet may be better still: Its responsible for only about half the greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have suggested that moderate diet changes are not enough to reduce impacts from food consumption drastically. Without significant reduction in meat and dairy, changes to healthier diets may only result in rather minor reductions of environmental impacts. This is because studies have shown that the average fossil energy input for animal protein production systems is 25 calories of fossil energy input for every 1 calorie producedmore than 11 times greater than that for grain protein production, for example, which is around 2 to 1.

Researchers in Italy compared seven different diets to see which one was environmentally friendliest. They compared a conventional omnivorous diet adhering to dietary guidelines; an organic omnivorous diet; a conventional vegetarian diet; an organic vegetarian diet; a conventional vegan diet; an organic vegan diet; and a diet the average person actually eats. For each dietary pattern, the researchers looked at carcinogens, air pollution, climate change, effects on the ozone layer, the ecosystem, acid rain, and land, mineral, and fossil fuel use. You can see in the video how many resources it took to feed people on their current diets, all the negative effects the diet is having on the ecosystem, and the adverse effects on human health.

If people were eating a healthier diet by conforming to the dietary recommendations, the environmental impact would be significantly less. An organic omnivorous diet would be better still, similar to a vegetarian diet of conventional foods. Those are topped by an organic vegetarian diet, followed by a conventional vegan diet. The best, however, was an organic vegan diet.

The Commission report described that the barriers to animal product reduction are largely lack of knowledge, ingrained habits, and culinary cultures. Proposed policy measures include meat or animal protein taxes, educational campaigns, and putting the greenhouse gas emissions information right on food labels.

Climate change mitigation is expensive. A global transition to even just a low-meat diet, as recommended for health reasons, could reduce these mitigation costs. A study determined that a healthier, low-meat diet would cut the cost of mitigating climate change from about 1% of GDP by more than half, a no-meat diet could cut two-thirds of the cost, and a diet free of animal products could cut 80% of the cost.

Many people arent aware of the cow in the room. It seems that very few people are aware that the livestock sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. But thats changing.

The UKs National Health Service is taking a leading role in reducing carbon emissions. Patients, visitors, and staff can look forward to healthy, low-carbon menus with much less meat, dairy, and eggs. Evidence shows that as far as the climate is concerned, meat is heat.

The Swedish government recently amended their dietary recommendations to encourage citizens to eat less meat. If we seek only to achieve the conservative objective of avoiding further long-term increases in [greenhouse gas] emissions from livestock, we are still led to rather radical recommendations such as cutting current consumption levels in half in affluent countriesan unlikely outcome if there were no direct rewards to citizens for doing so. Fortunately, there are such rewards: important health benefits… By helping the planet, we can help ourselves.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havent yet, you can subscribe to my free videoshereand watch my live, year-in-review presentations2015:Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016:How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

Never Too Late to Start Eating Healthier
Combating Common Diseases With Plants
One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic

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What is ‘Earthing’ and Why Are People Going Nuts Over It?

As humans, we seem to intuitively know that spending time outside is good for body and soul. In addition to the vitamin D benefits of sunlight, theres just something about being outside that feels good. We might not always be able to put our finger on why, exactly, the great outdoors is good for us, but we know it to be true: In fact, a recent study estimated that an abundant urban tree population would reduce national healthcare spending to the tune of $6.8 million, as a result of better air quality, decreases in stress and other health factors.

A new group of scientists has recently started looking into the health benefits of direct contact with the earththings like walking barefoot on the grass, sitting against a tree and lying on a warm, sandy beach. This practice of direct contact has been termed earthing, and a number of health and wellness gurus are beginning to advocate for it.

The Theory Behind Earthing

The idea on which earthing is based states that the earth emits a certain type of energy that can reduce inflammation, calm stress and improve health overall. Without making direct contact with the ground, say proponents, we dont get these benefits, leaving us feeling sluggish and generally causing ill health.

Think of it perhaps as vitamin GG for ground, states Earthing.com. What does that mean to you? Maybe the difference between feeling good and not so good, of having little or a lot of energy, or sleeping well or not so well.

This may sound extremely woo-woo, but in fact, there is some research to support this. One study published by scientists at the University of California, Irvine, found that just one hour of earthing decreased markers of inflammation and improved blood flow. Another study confirmed these findings, and also added that earthing seemed to improve immune response, increase wound healing factors and lessen the effects of autoimmune diseases. The idea of some special electric current running through the ground may be a little far-fetched, but there’s little doubt that the effects of nature can reduce stress and therefore improve health.

ElectronicEarthing Products

So, its hard to argue with the idea of grass beneath your feet being bad for you, but do you really need technology to experience the benefits of earthing? This is where the line gets blurry.

Companies such as Earthing.com sell products that you can place under your feet (for while youre at the computer or in front of the TV) or under your bed (for while youre sleeping) that supposedly get energy from the ground outside your home, allowing you to earth while youre inside partaking of your daily activities. The argument is that these earthing pads give you the same energy charge that youd get from making direct contact with the ground outside.

The Bottom Line

Its hard to see how people would buy into the idea of synthetic earthing pads when they could just go outside. But strange products aside, the prospect of spending more time in direct contact with the grass, dirt or sand is certainly an attractive one. And if sitting against a tree, eating an apple and reading a book is good for you, theres really no downside. Time spent outside is always valuable.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How to Fragrance Your Home With a Simmer Pot

Theres nothing like walking into a delicious-smelling room, is there? Humans have a natural affinity for fragrant scents. Its why we buy things like scented candles, incense and potpourri. Unfortunately, some methods of scenting your home are better than others. Scented candles may seem lovely, but burning them can release harmful chemicals into your environment. And let’s not even get intoair fresheners.

For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies and even asthma, South Carolina State University professor Ruhullah Massoudi explained.

An Alternative to Scented Candles: The Simmer Pot

Thankfully, there are safer alternatives. Essential oils, organic vegetable-based candles and reed diffusers are a few options. If you have a full kitchen, you might want to try scenting your home with a simmer pot.

Making a simmer pot is really simple: You just simmer a concoction of good-smelling ingredients (think citrus peels, herbs and spices) over a low boil for a few hours. You can also add the ingredients to a slow-cooker. Youre basically scenting your home in the same way you do when you cook, but youre cooking combinations of ingredients that are designed to produce a particular scent.

Spring Simmer Pot Recipes

For fresh, spring scents, focus on citrus and zesty herbs. Try one of these combinations on for size:

Sliced lemons with rosemary, cinnamon and vanilla essential oil
Anise, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon with lavender essential oil
Orange and lemon peels with cranberries and cloves
Grapefruit with rosemary, eucalyptus, shredded coconut and vanilla essential oil

The exact ratios will be up to you! Dont be afraid to get creative either. A good rule of thumb is to combine your favorite citrus fruits (usually 2-3 whole fruits will suffice) with a few sprigs of your favorite herbs in a pot of water. Then finish the concoction off with 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil. Bring the mixture to a simmer, turn the heat to low, and enjoy! Just be sure to keep your eye on the pot so you can add water as it evaporates.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Best Non-Toxic Ways to Freshen the Air In Your Car

The air inside a car can get pretty stinky. Bags of food waste. Spilled coffee and other drinks. Dirty gym clothes. Especially in the winter, when you keep the windows closed, the car just doesn’t get a chance to air out.

If you’re tempted to get one of those air freshener trees that dangle from your visor, don’t. Chances are they’ve been doused with phthalates, chemicals that can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems, says the Natural Resources Defense Council in its report on the hidden hazards of air fresheners. They may also contain terpene, a volatile organic compound that can react with naturally occurring ozone to create formaldehyde, reports PreventDisease.com. Headaches, nausea and depression may ensue.

Instead, here are smart and safe ways to freshen the air in your car:

* Clean it out. Duh! Look under the seats, on the floor and between the seat cushions for old food, dirty clothes and anything else that might be stinking up the place.

* Wash it out. Upholstery and floor mats may need to be professionally cleaned; at the least, scrub them down with hot soapy water if milk, juice and other wet food have penetrated the fabric.

* Keep a trash bag in the car and empty it. Empty the bag when you fill up for gas or run to the grocery store. There are always trash cans you can use to easily dispose of your waste.

* Use non-toxic cleansers when wiping out the inside of your car. If you take your car to the car wash, don’t let the crew there wipe out your car interior with their industrial-grade cleanser; they’ll in all likelihood contain phthalates, synthetic fragrances and other chemicals that could make you sick or at the least, give you a headache. Make up a solution of hot soapy water using fragrance-free, plant-based soap. Use that to wash down your dashboard, steering wheel and other non-cloth surfaces in the car.

* Keep the windows open a crack when you’re driving. As long as it’s not raining or snowing, open the windows slightly to keep fresh air circulating when you’re inside.

* Use baking soda to absorb residual odors. You may already have an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator to absorb smells there. You can do something similar in your car. Upcycle a plastic food container, like a small margarine tub, to contain the baking soda. Punch holes in the top of the lid so air can get inside, but keep the lid on so the baking soda doesn’t spill. Put the tub underneath the passenger seat or below the back windshield so it is out of the way.

* Don’t spray perfume or commercial air freshener. The last thing you want is for minute chemical particles to be floating around in your car, where they’d be incredibly easy to inhale. Remove the source of the smell, clean your vehicle and crack the windows open to stay healthy.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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UNESCO Report Shows the Face of Science is Changing


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5 Healthy Habits That Could Be Polluting the Water


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