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Nano danger, danger!

Worries over nanotoxicity are not going away.

The same day our magazine feature article “Tiny Toxins” appeared this week, Friends of the Earth released a report detailing the use of nanomaterials in cosmetics and sunscreens. The recommendation of the environmental group:

“a moratorium on further commercial release of personal care products that contain engineered nanomaterials, and the withdrawal of such products currently on the market until adequate, publicly available, independent peer-reviewed safety studies have been completed. Friends of the Earth further recommends that adequate regulations be put in place to protect the general public, workers manufacturing these products, and the environment.”

As our feature explains, FoE just might have a point. Just like any other new type of materials used in consumer products, nanoparticles in cosmetics should be adequately tested. And they haven’t been, despite calls for years from a number of those in the nanotech research community.

The problem, of course, is that the ultra-fine particles used in cosmetics and sunscreens are not really nanotechnology, despite what the product marketing might say. From a technology perspective they have little to do with the nanoelectronics, nano biosensors, and nano-based solar cells that are the real promise of nanotech. But by latching onto “nano” as a way to market new formulations of cosmetics and sunscreens, manufacturers have presented these ultra-fine particles as the face of nanotech. Now the rest of the nanotech community needs to worry about the repercussions.

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