By Ethan A. Huff
Since 2006, the use of nanoparticles in consumer products has skyrocketed by over 600 percent. Nanotechnologies, which involve the manipulation of elements and other matter on the atomic and molecular scale, are now used in over 1,300 commercial and consumer products. And that number is expected to jump nearly three-fold by 2020. But are these nanoparticles safe for humans and the environment, particularly when used in food-related applications?
According to data provided by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), a group formed in 2005 for the purpose of “creat[ing] an active public and policy dialogue” on nanotechnology, nanoparticles are now used in everything from car batteries and appliances, to aluminum foil and non-stick cookware. The “Food and Beverage” section of PEN even includes various vitamin and mineral supplements that contain nanoparticles, as well as McDonald’s hamburger boxes.
Many people believe that nanotechnology may be “the next industrial revolution,” but is the technology really safe? Just like genetically-modified organisms (GMO), nanotechnology has never been proven to be safe for humans or for the environment. Deconstructing and reassembling molecular components and injecting these altered molecules back into our clothing, furniture, cars, and food is really more of a giant experiment in human health than it is a successful technological breakthrough.
A 2004 study found that nanoparticles cause brain damage in fish and other aquatic species exposed to them. And the ETC Group, an international organization devoted to conservation and sustainable advancement, actually called for a moratorium on the production of nanoparticles back in 2002 after a European Parliament paper warned about their toxicity (http://www.organicconsumers.org/foo…).
A 1997 study put out by Oxford University and Montreal University linked titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreen to causing free radical and DNA damage in skin. And numerous other studies have found that nanoparticles are easily absorbed by cells, where they cause other untold harm within the body.
In 2008, the National Research Council, one of the National Academies in Washington, DC, stated that none of the nation’s 18 government bodies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have ever proven the safety of nanotechnology prior to its widespread use. Despite $14 billion in government and private investment, there is not one shred of basic evidence that shows how nanoparticles are even absorbed and metabolized by the body, and yet they are used in thousands of consumer products that are ingested or applied on skin (http://www.scientificamerican.com/a…).
To see the full PEN archive of consumer products that contain nanotechnologies, visit.