Our food, cosmetics and clothes may be filled with an invisible killer that doesn't show up in ingredients lists but may be more dangerous than COVID-19, according to new research.
A new study published the journal Nature Communications has shed light on the unseen, and often unseeable, world of nanomaterials.
An international team of researchers has developed a new method to trace these nanomaterials across the aquatic food chain, from microorganisms to the blood and tissues of fish.
"We found that that nanomaterials bind strongly to microorganisms, which are a source of food for other organisms, and this is the way they can enter our food chain," explained Dr Fazel Monikh, from the University of Eastern Finland.
"Once inside an organism, nanomaterials can change their shape and size and turn into a more dangerous material that can easily penetrate cells and spread to other organs.
"When looking at different organs of an organism, we found that nanomaterials tend to accumulate especially in the brain," Dr Monikh warned.
Nanomaterials are so small they're difficult to measure - the amount of them in any given organism can't be ascertained through their mass, which is the standard method for measuring other chemicals for regulatory purposes.
The researchers' findings emphasise the importance of assessing the risk of nanomaterials before they are introduced to consumer products in large amounts.
"It could be that you are already using nanomaterials in your food, clothes, cosmetic products, etc, but you still don't see any mention of them in the ingredient list. Why? Because they are still unregulated and because they are so small that we simply can't measure them once they're in your products," Dr Monikh added.
"People have the right to know what they are using and buying for their families. This is a global problem which needs a global solution. Many questions about nanomaterials still need to be answered.
"Are they safe for us and the environment? Where will they end up after we're done using them? How can we assess their possible risk?" Dr Monikh concluded.
Source: Sky News
A confidential UN report circulated among its Security Council members reportedly claims that North Korea has continued to maintain and develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes through cyberattacks.
The summary, key findings and recommendations of the report were seen by the Associated Press news agency, who reported that it was written by independent sanctions monitors and delivered to UN Security Council members on Monday.
It states that North Korea has "produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure" and encourages the Security Council to sanction four North Korean men: Choe Song Chol, Im Song Sun, Pak Hwa Song, and Hwang Kil Su.
UN Security Council sanctions have steadily increased since the state's first test explosion of a nuclear device in 2006, and today most of the country's exports and imports face severe restrictions.
The experts said that such nuclear and ballistic missile programmes were being financed through black market activities, including cyber heists, which brought in approximately $316m (£229m) in the twelve months preceding November 2020.
According to the report, North Korea remains able to evade UN sanctions and develop its weapons, as well as illicitly importing refined petroleum and accessing international banking channels and carry out "malicious cyber activities".
From 2015 through to 2016, a series of sophisticated cyber heists targeting the SWIFT global financial messaging service allowed a state-sponsored cybercrime collective, which researchers called the Lazarus Group, to steal millions of dollars.
Cybersecurity researchers have linked the Lazarus Group to North Korea, although it is not known whether it is part of the secretive government bureau Office 39, or a group hired by Pyonyang's elite to fill their own coffers.
This January, the country's leader Kim Jong Un ordered the development of new missiles with multiple warheads and nuclear-powered submarines with underwater-launch capabilities, as well as spy satellites.
Mr Kim told a party congress that the key to establishing new relations between his country and the US is "whether the United States withdraws its hostile policy", despite apparently destroying one nuclear test facility in 2018.
It is believed that sanctions following nuclear tests in 2017 hampered North Korea's ability to legitimately import gas and oil from China, driving the state towards developing the ability to generate enormous revenues through cybercrime.
Evidence suggests that a North Korean government bureau has been conducting illicit economic activity for quite some time, and Pyonyang's premiere hacking group started stealing Bitcoin, too.
The cryptocurrency is perfectly suited for dodging sanctions, despite the ferocious volatility in its value, as payments are processed in a distributed manner rather than through a central authority.
North Korea launders these cryptocurrencies through virtual asset brokers in China, the sanctions monitors said, adding that they were investigating a September 2020 hack against a cryptocurrency exchange that resulted in approximately $281m (£203m) being stolen.
FireEye researcher Luke McNamara previously told Sky News how the secretive North Korean agency known informally as Office 39 has been a critical asset of the state by generating black market revenues since at least the 1970s.
It is estimated to bring $1bn a year through illicit activities, including counterfeiting US dollar currency, producing narcotics, and even smuggling gold.
Source: Sky News
The United Arab Emirates has become the fifth nation to ever reach Mars, with its space probe successfully inserting into Martian orbit at 3.57pm UK time on Tuesday.
The probe, named Hope in English (Amal in Arabic), completed a tricky manoeuvre to enter into orbit after a seven month flight in which it covered more than 493 million kilometres following its launch from Tanegashima in Japan.
The Emirates Mars Mission is the first of three space missions due to reach Mars this month, and is being rapidly followed by China's Tianwen-1 orbiter and lander, and NASA's Perseverance rover.
Firing its six delta-v thrusters for 27 minutes to slow it from a cruising speed of 121,000 km/h to just 18,000 km/h, the Hope spacecraft was able to move into what is called its "capture orbit" where it will remain until its scientific instruments have been calibrated and it can descend to its science orbit.
The £160m satellite aims to provide a picture of the Martian atmosphere and study daily and seasonal changes on the planet, as well advancing the UAE's science and technology sector, enabling it to move away from its economic reliance on oil.
The spacecraft itself was designed and assembled by researchers at three American universities - the University of Colorado Boulder, Arizona State University, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Scientists believe Mars was once abundant with water, and very possibly life. The UAE Space Agency said: "One of the culprits of the transformation of this planet into a dry, dusty one is climate change and atmospheric loss."
The agency's probe will monitor the Martian weather system, as well as the distribution of hydrogen and oxygen in the upper portions of Mars' atmosphere - enabling humanity to understand the link between weather change and atmospheric loss.
"Using three scientific instruments on board of the spacecraft, EMM will provide a set of measurements fundamental to an improved understanding of circulation and weather in the Martian lower and middle atmosphere," according to the Emirati space agency.
"Combining such data with the monitoring of the upper layers of the atmosphere, EMM measurements will reveal the mechanisms behind the upward transport of energy and particles, and the subsequent escape of atmospheric particles from the gravity of Mars."
The mission makes the United Arab Emirates the first Arab nation to reach Mars, and the fifth space agency to get there overall after the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, and India.
It is being followed by China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft which is expected to insert itself into Mars orbit in the coming days, with a rover landing expected in April.
Although NASA's Perseverance rover will arrive at Mars later than Tianwen-1, it will land earlier and it has no orbiter component, with a scheduled date of 18 February.
Source: Sky News