Despite the ingredient label at the back of consumer goods, can you confidently know what’s exactly in the face cream you apply every night or the bag of chips that is your daily snack? Short answer, no! Researchers believe there might be a plethora of nanomaterial in your daily use consumer products that aren’t regulated by authorities and hence, do not appear on the ingredient list. Nanomaterials by design are tiny and agile and can penetrate your cells, and the long-term effect on your body can range from bad to drastic.
If you’re a fan of sci-fi, then you know nanomaterial are our future. From computer technology to medical treatments to agricultural practices — they can be applied everywhere. However, that doesn’t make this diverse category of products (ranging from synthetic chemicals to metal), omnipotent. In fact, when interacting with our biological processes, they can be almost fatal in certain quantities.
Dr Fazel A Monikh, Lead author of a recent study on nanomaterials, said that these nanomaterials can bind strongly to microorganisms, which act as a source of food for other organisms. This process makes it easy for them to enter our food chain. “Once inside an organism, nanomaterials can change their shape and size and turn into a more dangerous material that can easily penetrate cells and spread to other organs,” he added.
Monikh also mentioned that when different organs were closely examined, most nanomaterials tended to accumulate in the brain. His study has been published in Nature Communications.
Monikh added these nanomaterials cannot be measured once inside the product, unlike chemical components, which can be measured by mass and put as information on the label. The team emphasises the nanomaterial constituents need to be quantified before they are added in any consumer product.
There’s a lot still not known about nanotech or their potential and long-term impact on environment and biodiversity. There needs to be proper studies to assess potential risks associated with humans as well as proper channels to regulate their usage in products.