How Will Nanotechnology Change the World ?
Nanotechnology: Panacea or Pandora’s box?
Nano-ingredients showing up in food…unlabelled
Nanotechnology commonly refers to materials, systems and processes that exist or operate at a scale of 100 nanometres or less, according to U.S.–based Friends of the Earth. A nanometer is a billionth of a metre — about 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. An FoE report finds use of unlabelled, unregulated nano-ingredients in food has grown substantially since 2008. Because labelling and disclosure are not required for food and beverage products containing them, it’s difficult to determine how widespread their use is. Nanoparticles are also used in everything from cutting boards to baby bottles and toys to toothpaste.
“Major food companies have rapidly introduced nanomaterials into our food with no labels and scant evidence of their safety, within a regulatory vacuum,” says report author Ian Illuminato, FoE health and environment campaigner.
Potential health effects worry researchers
Studies show nanoparticles can harm human health and the environment. They can damage lungs and cause symptoms such as rashes and nasal congestion, and we don’t yet know about long-term effects. Their minute size means they’re “more likely than larger particles to enter cells, tissues and organs” and “can be more chemically reactive and more bioactive than larger particles of the same chemicals,” FoE says. A Cornell University study found nanoparticle exposure changed the structure of intestinal-wall lining in chickens.
Like pesticides, they also bioaccumulate. Those that end up in water — from cosmetics, toothpaste, clothing and more — concentrate and become magnified as they move up the food chain. And in one experiment, silver nanoparticles in wastewater runoff killed a third of exposed plants and microbes, according to a CBC online article.
Their use as antibacterial agents also raises concerns about bacterial resistance and the spread of superbugs, which already kill tens of thousands of people every year. (…)