Sample Case Study Paper on Nanotechnology and Ethical Issues

Nanotechnology and ethical issues

A nanometer is the minimum piece of quantity being a billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology is the science of using very tiny particles on the nanoscale. Application of nanotechnology is very useful in today’s world especially in the medical field. Shatkin (2012) states that “the promise of nanotechnology  is – to transform the way energy is generated; how diseases are identified and treated; how food is grown; and the way fabrics, building materials, and consumer goods are manufactured – a promise based on current research as well as on applications that already exist in our economy” (p. 16). However; this technology has its cons and challenges too. It can cause dangers in the health segment. This paper looks at Fleddermann’s case study in his book Engineering Ethics and tries to put across ethical issues attached to nanotechnology.

Uses of nanotechnology

Nanotechnology can be applied in many areas including: cosmetics, optics and electronics, and biomedicine. Fleddermann cites (Alivasatos, 2001) list of progress that can be made in healthcare through this technology: “drug delivery systems, bone repair, diagnostic tools, and therapies for cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases” (p. 95).

Tibbals (2010) affirms the significance of nanotechnology to medicine such as “cellular signaling, enzyme action, and the cell cycle” (p. 19). “Nanotechnology provides tools for analyzing the structure of tissue on the most important scale between the atomic and the cellular levels, and for designing and making synthetic biomaterials on the nanoscale for therapies and replacements” (Tibbals, 2010, p.19).


Challenges of nanotechnology

Just like any other technology this technology comes with its challenges too. Fleddermann notes that the problem of the nanoscale is with “the fact that materials act differently as their proportions reduce in size” (p. 95).

Nanotechnology has impact on the surroundings. According to Fulekar( 2010) this is because of contact to nanoparticles in clothing, food, water, dust and aerosols and that the chief impact will be outcome of this technology on “consumption of energy and materials” (p. 29).

Ethical issues brought about by nanotechnology

Despite the many advances with this technology, numerous ethical issues and threats have been associated with nanotechnology. They include health menaces and ecological hazards. Fleddermann points out that, nanoparticles create welfare challenge (p. 95). He further explains that the nanoparticle has the capacity to go through the living cells, attack the cells and this can cause another ailment. Fleddermann’s case study also shows the possibility of nanoparticle to take in toxins into the cells (p. 95).

Fulekar(2010, p. 185) mentions several ethical and legal issues caused by this technology;

  • Toxicity of nanoparticles
  • Environmental sustainability and remediation
  • Human/machines interfaces
  • Human enhancements
  • Privacy and security
  • Scientific integrity and liberty
  • Technical transfer, patenting and insurance liability
  • Military use of nanotechnology
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanodevices
  • International and developing world needs
  • Government regulations


The use of this technology has been initiated and it might expand it the future. Fleddermann points out that some companies lately produce carbonmanotubes and that this could elevate in the coming years. With goods made of nanoparticles already in market, research is still being done in institutions of higher learning and labs (Fleddermann, p. 95). According to him the government is yet to adjust the use of this substance. Fulekar(2010) points out the need to test the possible threats and aftermaths involved in this technology, find possible solutions to ethical issues before the technology is fully used and argues that having strategies would remove the harmful effects in the world.

Conclusion and future study

Nanotechnology is a technology with both constructive and harmful effects as discussed above. It has some influence on healthcare both helpful and unconstructive.  According to Fulekar (2010) it could form ethical dilemmas. In order to be safe it is important to have a thorough study on this technology before putting it in place as Fulekar (2010) states that, “strong set of operating principles is needs – standards by which we can guide ourselves to a healthy future”.

The federal government should control the use of nanoparticles in production and manufacturing of goods so that we do not end up suffering the consequences. The government has to first find out the impacts of any technology on the society before giving it an appraisal. Talking to a professional engineer I concluded that even though nanotechnology has many promises caution needs to be taken on the setbacks that this technology can come with. In my view the government has the power to have every technology tested before it used. I believe that it’s practical to carry out survey on the impacts of technology before it is use


Fleddermann, C. B. (2007). Engineering ethics. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Fulekar, M. H. (2010). Nanotechnology: Importance and applications. New Delhi: I.K. International Pub. House.

Shatkin, J. A. (2012). Nanotechnology: Health and Environmental Risks. Florida: CRC Press.

Tibbals, H. F. (2010). Medical nanotechnology and nanomedicine. Florida: CRC Press.