Just Say No To Nanos

By James Keough

In deciding to withhold its organic certification from any product that uses “man-made nanomaterials,” England’s Soil Association became the first organization in the world to take action against what it terms “this hazardous, potentially toxic technology that poses a serious new threat to human health.”

While the association acknowledges the potential benefits of nanotechnology, particularly in medicine and renewable energy, it notes that initial safety studies on nano’s impact on living organisms “show negative effects.” According to the Soil Association’s policy manager, Gundula Azeez, “There should be no place for nanoparticles in health and beauty products or food.”

More recently, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products of the European Commission concluded that we have inadequate information to determine the safety of using nanoparticles in cosmetics, specifically in the health hazards they present, the risk of exposure, the way in which the skin absorbs them, their ability to breach membranes in the gut and lungs, their accumulation in the organs, and whether or not they can travel through the placenta to a fetus.

Unfortunately, at least 70 nanotech applications already occur in food, according to a survey taken in 2007, and a number of major cosmetic companies use nanomaterials, especially in sunscreens. None of these uses requires mention on a label, nor does anyone expect the FDA to enact such a regulation in the near future.

You can browse an inventory of nano-containing products at www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/consumer.