Tiny particles, big damage

The FDA and the EPA need to advance nanotechnology regulations.

From coating drill bits for strength to giving batteries a longer charge, there are more applications for nanoparticles by the day. However, there are still no clear guidelines for regulating the products that use them. TheyâÄôre found everywhere, in antibacterial kitchen utensils and surfaces, suntan lotions, air purifiers, medical implants and even food products. While the benefits of using nanoparticles in these products are easily demonstrated by manufacturers, the potential risks and dangers are poorly researched. As far back as 1997, researchers at Oxford University discovered that one class of nanoparticles found in suntan lotions can create free radicals that destroy DNA. Tests conducted by environmental toxicologist Eva Oberdörster at Southern Methodist University in Texas found extensive brain damage in fish only moderately exposed to carbon nanoparticles for a period of just 48 hours. Despite research like this, the Environmental Protection Agency still has not come out with clear guidelines on how to regulate nanotechnology. In their defense, EPA officials have stated that âÄúthey want to get the science right before regulating the industry.âÄù Both the EPA and Food and Drug Administration should be moving more quickly on this. While manufacturers are doing a better job of self-regulation due to expensive consumer settlements, we need our federal agencies to step up to the plate and set standards for product research and testing.