by Ethan A. Huff
April 20, 2011
Though some might argue that nanotechnology offers benefits not
afforded by normal molecules, the environmental and human health
consequences of this "breakthrough" technology appear dire, to say
New research published in the Journal of
Hazardous Materials explains that nanoparticles damage beneficial
soil bacteria and ultimately ruin plants' ability to uptake
Researchers Niraj Kumar and Virginia Walker from
Queen's University in Canada set out to investigate the effects of
nanoparticles in the environment,
comparing soil from the Arctic -
which they believed would be the least contaminated with
nanoparticles - to soil that was deliberately contaminated with
various nanoparticles, including silver nanoparticles.
"We hadn't thought we would see much
of an impact, but instead our results indicate that silver
nanoparticles can be classified as highly toxic to microbial
communities," the team wrote.
"This is particularly concerning
when you consider the vulnerability of the arctic ecosystem."
According to the team's analysis,
uncontaminated soil contains beneficial microbes, some of which are
necessary to help plants absorb nitrogen.
But when nanoparticles enter the
picture, these microbes are largely killed off. The end result is
plants that lack nitrogen, and which thus lack the ability to grow
properly and maintain necessary levels of vital nutrients.
The experiment, however, involved highly-concentrated applications
of nanoparticles on soil samples for roughly six months. In actual
environmental conditions, however, it is difficult to say whether or
not all nanoparticles are harmful.
Silver nanoparticles in particular,
which can be found in
colloidal silver, offer helpful
benefits in naturally mitigating disease.
All sorts of nanoparticles are now added to a variety of industrial
and consumer products, including in food packaging, clothing,
electronic devices, sunscreen, batteries, cookware, and even in some
types of food.
And the real problem is that many of
these nanoparticles have never been properly safety tested, and are
thus a giant experiment in environmental and human health (below
Up in Thousands of Consumer Products
by Ethan A. Huff
March 14, 2011
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
But are these nanoparticles safe for
humans and the environment, particularly when used in food-related
According to data provided by the Project on Emerging
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.
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
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
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.
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.
According to PEN, the majority of
nanotechnology applications are in
the "Health and Fitness" category, which includes the use of
nanoscale silver for its antimicrobial properties. Ironically,
health authorities have mocked those who use colloidal silver and
other similar products for antimicrobial and other health purposes,
but now that silver is being used as part of nanotechnology, it is
mysteriously becoming widely accepted and showing up in all kinds of
products without warning.
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
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.
To see the full PEN archive of consumer products that contain