Our report details the growing threat to public health posed by extreme germ killer nano silver, and exposing the huge number of consumer applications in which it is found. Silver has long been known as a potent antibacterial agent. However its use has exploded in recent years, not only in medical applications, but in a huge number of consumer products, including children’s toys, babies’ bottles, cosmetics, textiles, cleaning agents, chopping boards, refrigerators and dishwashers, available in Australian shops.

Much of the silver used is in the form of nano silver, a tiny and especially potent form. Early studies suggest that not only could nano silver pose serious new health and environmental risks, its reckless widespread use could promote antibacterial resistance, undermining its efficacy in a medical context.

Over-use of this extreme germ killer poses a serious public health risk. It is unnecessary to coat cups, bowls and cutting boards, cosmetics, personal care products, children’s toys and infant products in nano silver for ‘hygienic’ reasons. Indiscriminate use of biocidal silver in huge numbers of products is not only unnecessary, but may pose toxic risks. It could also promote dangerous anti-bacterial resistance to silver.

One of the main reasons nano silver is now used in wound dressings is because of the growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Already up to 110,000 deaths per year in the European Union can be attributed to bacterial infections. Widespread use of nano silver in consumer products could render it ineffective in a medical context.

Nano silver could also interfere with beneficial bacteria in waste water and sewage treatment. When water is increasingly becoming precious, especially in Australia, the release of biocidal silver from clothing, cosmetics and dishwashers into waste streams raises further concerns. Toxic nano silver may also contaminate waste intended for re-use.

Friends of the Earth calls for a immediate moratorium on the commercial release of products that contain manufactured nano silver until nanotechnology-specific regulation is introduced to protect the public, workers and the environment from their risks, until all products are labelled, and until the public is involved in decision making.