The use of nanomaterials in an ever expanding number of products to which humans are exposed is creating unnecessary, unregulated and largely unknown risks for all of us. Nanomaterials are found in a wide range of products including medicines, cosmetics and sunscreen, food and food contact materials, agricultural chemicals, clothing, materials, household products, surface coatings, sporting equipment and more. This means we may be exposed to many different nanomaterials through ingestion, inhalation and skin contact.
Nanomaterials are generally more chemically reactive than larger particles of the same chemicals. They generally have greater access to our bodies than larger particles and are much more likely to be taken up into our cells and tissues than are larger particles.
There is a mounting body of evidence that some nanomaterials represent risks to human health. Carbon nanotubes have been shown to have characteristics similar to asbestos. Numerous studies have shown gastrointestinal uptake of nanoparticles and the presence of nanoparticles in the heart, liver, spleen, intestine, brain, kidney, lungs and spleen.
Nanoparticles have been associated with immune dysfunction and colon cancer and there is evidence that nanoparticles may remain in the body for extended periods. The rapidly increasing number of commercial products containing nanomaterials and the mounting evidence that certain nanomaterials are of concern has not resulted in any regulatory intervention to ensures these substances are safe for human use before they are released. Of the thousands of products containing nanomaterials, the only regulation protecting humans from exposure to nanomaterials has been to declare carbon nanotubes a hazardous material in the workplace. There are no restrictions on its sale or use once on the market.