In response to the ever increasing number of consumer products containing silver nanoparticles (cling wrap, refrigerators, washing machines, socks, tooth paste), Friends of the Earth Australia has prepared a detailed background paper (download below) on the threat of nanosilver to soil, water and human health. The paper also discusses regulatory issues surrounding the use of nanosilver and reviews the toxicological literature.

Silver nanoparticles are found in an increasing number of consumer products such as food packaging, odour resistant textiles, household appliances and medical devices including wound dressings (“Band Aids”). In recent months concerns have been mounting that silver nanoparticles pose an unacceptable toxicity risk to human health and the environment.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced in late 2006 that it would investigate regulating as pesticides products that contain silver nanoparticles and that make claims of antimicrobial action. However, in a wholly illogical and highly unsatisfactory loophole, the USEPA decision will only apply to products whose manufacturers make claims of antimicrobial action. This means that if a manufacturer withdraws marketing claims of nanosilver’s antimicrobial activity, but changes nothing about the nanosilver component of a product, then that product will escape regulation as a pesticide.