Why the nanomaterials in your face cream could be bad for your skin
Marketing ploy: Lost of cosmetic firms boat how their products contain nanomaterials. But experts believe they could contain unknown hazards
Microscopic nanomaterials used in a fast-growing array of consumer products could be hazardous, say scientists.
Experts said not enough is known about the risks of the particles used in items ranging from face creams and sunscreen to stain-resistant clothing and food additives.
The U.S. National Research Council called for a wide-ranging investigation in a report for the Environmental Protection Agency.
It said an additional $24million a year worth of research funding would be necessary to close the knowledge gap.
‘Despite the promise of nanotechnology, without strategic research into emergent risks associated with it – and a clear understanding of how to manage and avoid potential risks – the future of safe and sustainable nanotechnology-based materials, products, and processes is uncertain,’ said the study by a committee of 19 scientists.
There is insufficient understanding about the environmental, health and safety effects of engineered nanotechnology materials (ENMs).
Little progress has been made on the health effects of ENMs that have been swallowed, inhaled or absorbed by humans, it said.
There also has been little research on potential damage from more-complex ENMs that are expected to come into the market in the next decade.
The federal Centers for Disease Control says there are indications ‘that nanoparticles can penetrate the skin or move from the respiratory system to other organs.’
‘At this time, the limited evidence available suggests caution when potential exposures to nanoparticles may occur,’ the CDC says on its website.
A new federal oversight agency is also required to integrate research by private business, universities and international groups, the non-profit research added.
Nanotechnology involves designing and
manufacturing materials on the scale of one-billionth of a meter. It is
used in areas ranging from stain-resistant clothing and cosmetics to
sector's product sales were about $225billion in 2009 and it is expected
to expand rapidly in the next decade, said the study by the research
council, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences.
of nanomaterials are made from ceramic nanoparticles, with another 20
per cent each from carbon nanotubes and nanoporous materials, the report
The complexity of
ENMs and their coatings make them challenging to assess as risks. For
example, a nanomaterial can change its surface properties depending on
where it is, such as in lung fluid or air, the study said.
federal government has set aside $123.5million in its 2012 budget for
ENM safety research, and that level should remain stable for about five
years, the report said.
private and international groups should designate another $5 million a
year for collecting and disseminating information on ENM, and $10million
for instrumentation, it said.
Focus: The U.S. National Research Council suggested that an additional $24million is spent studying the effects of nanomaterials
Investment in developing and providing benchmark nanomaterials should be from $3 million to $5 million a year. Identifying nanomaterials sources and developing research networks each need $2 million a year.
All the new spending should be kept in place for five years, the report recommended.
The panel called for replacing the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which coordinates federal agencies' investments in sector research and development, with a body that has the authority to direct federal safety research.
The new body also should ensure that federal research is meshed with that from private business, universities and international organisations, it said.