A telephone survey of American households, 363 leading nanotechnology scientists and engineers, has revealed that the experts are more concerned than the public about the effects the technology may have on human health and environment.
"Scientists aren't saying there are problems. They're saying, 'we don't know. The research hasn't been done,'" Nature Nanotechnology quoted the study's lead author Dietram Scheufele, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of life sciences communication and journalism, as saying.
Most scientists appeared optimistic about the potential benefits of nanotechnology during the survey. They, however, seemed even more concerned about pollution and new health problems related to the technology.
The highest rated concern among scientists were the potential health problems, revealed Scheufele, who conducted the survey with Elizabeth Corley at Arizona State University.
While 20 per cent of the scientists surveyed said that new forms of nanotechnology pollution might emerge, only 15 per cent of the public thought that might be a problem.
Over 30 per cent of scientists were concerned that human health might be at risk from the technology, while just 20 percent of the public held such fears.
Scheufele said that though scientists wondered about the health and environmental implications of the new technology, their ability to spark public conversation seemed to be limited.
"Scientists tend to treat communication as an afterthought. They're often not working with social scientists, industry or interest groups to build a channel to the public," he said. "I think the public wants to know more. The applications are out there and that concern gap has to be addressed. The climate for having that discourse is perfect. There is definitely a huge opportunity for scientists to communicate with a public who trusts them," he added.