Nanotechnology Risks Call for Stronger Industry Regulations

Stronger nanotechnology regulations are needed because current laws monitoring nanotchnology risks and safety are highly insufficient.

| October 16, 2012

  • nanotechnology
    As the use of nanotechnology in food and products grows, there is an urgent need for oversite and regulations on it's risk and safety.
    Photo by Fotolila/Agsandrew

  • nanotechnology

The following article is published with permission from the Food Safety News.

Nanotechnology is an innovative science involving the design and application of small-sized particles measuring one hundred nanometers or less. (An average human hair measures 80.000 nanometers in diameter). Most nanomaterials are derived from conventional chemicals. Their miniscule size and large surface area help to enhance their mechanical, electrical, optical and catalytic features. Thus, nanotechnology is incorporated into a large variety of consumer and health goods, such as food, food packaging, sunblock, chemical fertilizers and animal feed. However, little is currently known about the possible effects of nanotechnology on human, animal or environmental health. What we do know is that nanoparticles have a tremendous ability to penetrate cells and DNA structures. With increased use of nanoparticles, concerns are growing around the possible harm they may have on humans and other living organisms.

Lately there has been a growing international call for stronger legislation on nanotechnology because current laws monitoring its safety and risks are highly insufficient.

Concerns Surrounding Nanotechnology

Studies show that nanoparticles can easily penetrate DNA and the cells of the lungs, skin and digestive system, thereby causing harm to living organisms. One example of a commonly used but potentially harmful nanoparticle can be found in the beverage industry. Beverage companies have been using plastic bottles made with nano-composites, which minimize the leakage of carbon dioxide out of the bottle. This increases the shelf life of carbonated beverages without using heavy glass bottles or more expensive aluminum cans. Think of the numbrt of people who are unknowingly being exposed to untested nanocomposites. Nanoparticles are also now being engineered to be more resilient, thereby increasing the risk of causing irreversible damage to living organisms. We simply do not have sufficient data or risk assessment laws in place to analyse whether nanoparticles are safe for consumption.

International Regulations

Legislation governing the use of nanoparticles is limited around the world, particularly in the U.S. In 2007, a report released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Nanotechnology Task Force 33 stated that despite the ‘special properties’ of nanomaterials, no further regulation is needed.

This report was opposed by environmental group Friends of the Earth and the International Center for Technology Assessment. The organizations filed a petition with FDA urging it to take action to highlight the risks associated with nanotechnology. As a result, the federal Nanotechnology Research and Development Act was passed in 2003.

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