The Potential Impact of Nanoparticles on Your Health
People ingest trillions of nanoparticles everyday. What are nanoparticles anyway? How do these particles affect our health?
The Cornell University and Binghamton University researchers mentioned that people are affected by 100 trillion nanoparticles each day. As of today, there is still no clear information as to how this nanotechnology can affect our health in the long-term.
But, these researchers published a paper in the Nature Nanotechnology journal to increase the awareness on the effect of nanoparticles that are present in food and supplements on people’s health. Before we jump to their alarming study, we will learn about the basics first.
Nanoparticles are the tiny substances that have been added to many modern products, including protein powders and sunscreens, so that the products will have a longer shelf-life. A nanoparticle is made of a mixture of elements, including iron, silver, carbon and oxygen. One example of a nanoparticle is the nano-silver, which possesses antimicrobial properties and is often used in health and fitness products.
A huge number of nanoparticles have been engineered for use in pharmaceutical products, vitamins, food additives and many other consumer items. Millions of dollars have already been spent on research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine the potential benefits and risks of nanotechnology. The FDA has already approved the majority of the nanoparticles and their application in consumer items. But any food product that has been engineered with nanotechnology cannot be certified as organic.
How Safe are Nanoparticles?
Only a few studies have been conducted regarding this new field of nanotechnology, and only a handful has been able to shed light on the question of its safety. One study is that from Cornell and Binghampton.
A team of biomedical engineers conducted this study to determine the impact of using large doses of polystyrene nanoparticles on the absorption of iron by chickens. Polystyrene nanoparticles are commonly present in food substances. The results of the study showed that short-term exposure to large doses of nanoparticle caused interference on nutrient absorption initially. But longer exposure caused changes in the intestinal cell structure of the chickens so that there was 200 percent absorption of more iron. The resulting physiological change on the chicken’s cell structure was totally unexpected.
What is more alarming is the possibility that chronic nanoparticle exposure could increase the rate of absorption of harmful chemical substances. Some have attributed the occurrence of health conditions like Crohn’s disease to this exposure. However, research has yet to prove this idea.
What Must Be Done?
Although there is no tangible conclusion yet regarding the effects of nanoparticles on health, it would be good to take some precautions and avoid exposure to these substances.
Consume more organic produce
Eat organic produce as much as you can and avoid genetically engineered food products.
Avoid vitamin and supplements
Consult your doctor about your options should you consider quitting vitamins and supplement consumption.
Avoid using consumer products with nanoparticles
Using cosmetic products like sunscreens and cleaning products that may have been manufactured using nanotechnology exposes your skin to nanoparticles. Many products are not labeled as using nanotechnology, so consumers have no way of knowing about it unless verified with the manufacturer.
Photo credits: Nanoparticles by Oregon State University via Flickr, CC by-SA 2.0