Which products use nanotech?
Nanotech particles are already being used quietly in a wide range of consumer products. L'Oreal and Boots use nanoparticles in sunscreens and cosmetics, the Gap and Next are putting nanoparticles in clothes to make them stain and wrinkle resistant, Smith and Nephew are putting them in bandages while chemical company BASF are putting nanoparticles in food additives into drinks. Meanwhile Unilever and Nestle are working on nanoparticle ice cream. Unfortunately products that contain nanomaterials do not have to be labeled and the nanomaterials are far too small for the consumer to detect. The companies who are developing nanotech hope to incorporate nanotechnology across all consumer products in the next ten years
Nanotechnology is a new set of technologies and safety studies have only just begun. However there are already a lot of warning signs that nanoparticles in particular are more toxic than larger particles and show the same health problems as particles that come out of car exhausts. For example:
*Metal oxide nanoparticles (such as Zinc oxide) used in sunscreens have been show to produce toxic effects in skin cells and studies are now ongoing to see how deeply they can penetrate the skin.
* A class of nanoparticles known as fullerenes have been shown to cause toxic effects in the lungs of mice, brain damage in fish and kill soil bacteria.
* The Royal Society (the leading organisation of scientists in the UK) has warned that new nanomaterials should be tested as new materials, that environmental uses of nanoparticles should be prohibited and that any nanoparticles escaping from factories should be treated as hazardous. The Royal Society also recommended that any products containing nanomaterials be labeled for consumers.
* In April 2006 a nano cleaning product called 'magic nano' was recalled in Germany after 76 people were admitted to hospital with breathing problems. Itâ€™s not clear what caused this but the German Authorities suspect that the nanoparticles in the product may be to blame.
What can you do about it?
Tell DEFRA that their voluntary scheme is unacceptable â€“ tell them that they should act in a precautionary way and heed the warnings on nanotech. Tell them that their voluntary scheme onot good enough, that they should stop giving a green light to nanotech. We need a moratorium on nanotech now!