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Nanotechnology is the generic name given to the production or use of very small, or ‘nano’ particles.
It is an area for which there is no regulation in Australia. Companies are under no obligation to even notify any government authority if they import, use or manufacture nano-materials.
The potential effects of nano-materials on worker health and that of the general community, as well as on the environment, are largely unknown.
Much of the silver used in products today is manufactured at the nano-scale, meaning it is present in extremely tiny particles that behave differently than larger particles and are especially potent. Studies suggest that the widespread use of nano-silver poses serious health and environmental risks, and that it could promote anti-bacterial resistance, undermining its efficacy in a medical context.
Silver has long been known to be a potent antimicrobial agent. However, its use has exploded in recent years, in medical applications and also in many consumer products, including children’s toys, babies’ bottles, and cosmetics, textiles, cleaning agents, chopping boards, refrigerators and dishwashers.
Friends of the Earth and Health Care Without Harm Europe have released a report detailing the growing public health threat posed by nano-silver particles in consumer products. “What we’ve learned is alarming,” said Friends of the Earth’s Ian Illuminato, one of the report’s authors. “Major corporations are putting nano-silver into a wide variety of consumer products with virtually no oversight, and there are potentially serious health consequences as a result. The workers who manufacture these products, the families that use them and the environment are all at risk.”
“Inserting nano-silver into hundreds of new products could harm our bodies and the outdoor environments into which it’s released,” said Illuminato. “Nano-silver doesn’t distinguish between good and bad bacteria—it kills all bacteria with which it interacts, many of which are necessary for our survival and the survival of other living organisms.” The availability in Australia of materials potentially containing nano-silver particles looks likely to increase significantly judging by a recent article in The Age: True blue ‘smart’ fabric more than just a high-tech yarn. Australian work wear company King Gee is using fabric utilising nanotechnology that absorbs body odour and ‘is apparently so intelligent that it can also differentiate between a bad smell and a good one.’ The fabric may contain nano-silver which kills bacteria/microbes which cause bad smells.
“Do we really need to coat cups, bowls and cutting boards, personal care products, children’s toys and infant products in nano-silver for ‘hygienic’ reasons?” asked report co-author Dr. Rye Senjen, Friends of the Earth Australia’s nanotechnology expert. “Over-use of this extreme germ killer poses a serious public health risk.” “We are playing with fire, especially at a time when anti-bacterial resistance is an ever increasing medical problem globally,” Dr. Senjen said. The report also warns that nano-silver may leach out of products such as clothing, cosmetics, and washing machines and find its way into water systems and potentially interfere with the treatment of waste water and sewage.
Friends of the Earth is calling for an immediate moratorium on the commercial release of products that contain manufactured nano-silver until nanotechnology-specific regulation is put in place to protect the public, workers and the environment, until all products containing nano-silver are labelled as such, and until the public is involved in decision making about the use of this particle.
For an interesting, informative and slightly alarming read on how chemicals in our everyday home environment are affecting our bodies and our minds, we recommend, “Slow Death By Rubber Duck” by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. As seen on Channel 10’s ‘The Circle’, these two leading Canadian enviromentalists, used themselves as human experiments and willingly exposed themselves to the environmental toxins found daily in our homes.
Visit their website at http://slowdeathbyrubberduck.com/AUS_NZ/