Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nano Particles - Buyer Beware

Very hazy today as I can only see the third row of trees - very still and peaceful.

You won't find nano particles in your list of ingredients because there are no regulations for them in the US or EU. They've been around awhile too under positive disguises such a wrinkle-free and anti-bacterial. Heck, who wouldn't want something like that?

So what is a nano anyway? It describes the size of a particle in relation to a meter ( a little over a yard). One nano particle is one billionth of a meter. It takes 80,000 nano particles to equal the size of a hair. If a particle gets up to the size of 200-1000 nanometers, then it can be classified as micronized. That's important for later.

What's the big deal? Like so many things racing past us before safety regulations are established, we have no idea of the long term health effects of nanoparticles. Minerals are nanosized for make up and passed off as Mineral Make up which sounds earthy and organic. Sunscreens have nanoed (new verb) the old favorite of titanium oxide so we don't have white smeary skin. What scientist do know is that these particles are absorbed by the skin and can penetrate even cells because of their small size. Remember a nano particle can be smaller than the human cell and almost the size of a virus. That's scary stuff.

Silver is used for its antibacterial properties and is showing up every where including ladies underwear. Not only are scientists concerned about what it does when it enters our bodies, but silver going into our environment, water (by washing) has potential to reek real havoc. Not all bacteria are bad. We need bacteria in our septic tanks, in the ground, in the oceans. They do a lot of good depending upon what it is. So to think that a new anti bacteria cleaning solution is going to disinfected my kitchen counters, go into my skin, on my food, and into my septic and mess with my bacteria, really winds me up. Lets be really clear here, scientists know nanos can go into our cells. The question is - then what? We need time to answer that question.

Inhaled nano particles are showing a similar response as inhaled asbestos. Makes sense really. Micronized particles are bigger and seem to be less likely to be absorbed by the skin and are often used in safer sunscreen products. Where is the line drawn between nano and micronized and safety? Are they really safer? Again, we don't really know yet. And what about those wrinkle free pants? What IS in those any way? Buyer beware.

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