Use of nanoparticles fraught with risks, warn scientists

April 7th, 2008 - 11:44 am ICT by admin  

New York, April 7 (IANS) The inevitable has happened - as the use of nano particles grows, scientists have sounded a warning on their impact on the environment and on human health. Take, for instance, the case of nanoparticle silver. Known for its antibacterial and odour-fighting properties, this nanoparticle is now being extensively used in products ranging from socks to bandages to washing machines.

Now, concerned scientists are urging a closer look at the unforeseen consequences of ordinary laundering washing off substantial amounts of the nanosilver particles into natural waterways.

In a presentation at a meeting of the American Chemical Society Sunday, researchers Paul Westerhoff and Troy M Benn, said nanosilver in socks - intended to prevent foot odour - could have unwanted effects on aquatic organisms living in the water and possibly humans, too.

“This is the first report of anyone looking at the release of silver from this type of manufactured clothing product,” they claimed.

“If you start releasing ionic silver, it is detrimental to all aquatic biota. Once the silver ions get into the gills of fish, it’s a pretty efficient killer,” said Benn.

Ionic silver is only toxic to humans at very high levels. The toxicity of nanoparticle silver, said Westerhoff, has yet to be determined. Silver has been used historically since ancient times, though its nanoparticle form has only recently appeared in consumer products.

Beyond socks, nanosilver appears in certain bandages, athletic wear and cleaning products. Benn suggested that most consumers are unaware of these nano-additions.

The general public needs to be aware that there are unknown risks associated with the products they buy containing nanomaterials, they said.

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