Maybe you are of the thinking that a little bit of anything can’t hurt us. Do you think something so tiny, like the size of a nano-particle could not hurt us? You might be thinking that there is no way some tiny little nano-particle is going to be able to cause any significant damage. Well, if that is what you are thinking, you may be very alarmed and shocked at what I am about to let you know.
Something called nanotechnology is being used to engineer particles that are 1000 times thinner than a stand of human hair! These nano-materials are several hundred times smaller than our blood cells. The concern about nanotechnology is that it can cause familiar substances to change in ways that scientist don’t expect and cannot predict.
An example of this would be to look at the thick, white, zinc sunscreen that many people wear on their nose during a day at the beach. If nanotechnology is used to reduce the size of those particles to the nano-scale it will cause those white zinc particles to become transparent. This can be useful, but the problem is that at this tiny scale, the particles change in other ways as well.
Research has shown us that zinc nano-particles are much more toxic than the larger zinc particles and unfortunately that is the case with most nano-particles. The sheer uncertainty in how this technology changes the products means we need to have new safety testing in place before nanotechnology is used in manufacturing products.
Who is the most vulnerable?
Infants may be at greater risk due to their more vulnerable physiology. Since the immune, central nervous, reproductive and digestive systems in children are still developing in infancy and early stages of life, consuming products with nano-particles can lead to irreversible damage and increase their risk of disease later in life. Obviously baby formula containing nano-particles would be of great concern.
Baby formulas do not list nano-particle ingredients on the label. Friends of the Earth is also concerned that FDA does not regulate nano-particles in baby formula, nor does the agency pre-screen or test infant formulas before they enter the market. They believe the agency can do more to protect this vulnerable population.
Friends of the Earth commissioned laboratory analysis of popular baby formulas to find out if they contain nano-particles. They tested leading US brands of baby formula, including: Gerber (owned by Nestle), Enfamil, Similac, and Well Beginnings (Walgreen’s brand).
Results showed all six baby formulas they tested contain nano-particles. The three types found are “needle-like” nano hydroxyapatite, nano TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and nano silica dioxide.
Friends of the Earth is especially concerned about the nano hydroxyapatite in needle form found in the Gerber, Enfamil, and Well Beginnings formulas. The European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) found that needle nano-hydroxyapatite is potentially toxic, could be absorbed by and enter cells, and should not be used in cosmetics such as toothpaste, teeth whiteners and mouth washes. A material that should not be used in cosmetics raises greater concern when used in food especially baby formula!
Download the full report and press release HERE.
What New Risks Can Nano-Particles Cause:
● They can be more chemically reactive and more bioactive than larger particles of the same chemicals.
● Due to their very small size, nano-particles have been demonstrated to be more likely than larger particles to enter cells, tissues and organs.
● Greater bioavailability and greater bioactivity may introduce new toxicity risks.
Why are companies using these nano-particles in baby formula?
Nano HA is most likely a calcium source for the formula, or could be used as an abrasive, bulking and emulsion stabilizer. However the needle-form is more commonly used in oral and bone surgeries. TiO2 is a brightener or whitener for food and beverage products, anti-caking agent Nano silica dioxide is used as a ‘trickle and flow’ aid in powdered food products, as a clearing agent in beer and wine, as a food additive (amorphous silica found to be nano) and as a food coating
Are nano-particles used in other kinds of products?
Many nano-materials have already entered wide-scale commercial use and can be found in hundreds of products, including transparent sunscreens; light-diffracting cosmetics; penetration enhanced moisturizers; stain-, moisture- and odor-repellent fabrics; long-lasting paints and furniture varnishes; antibacterial household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and air conditioners; and sporting equipment.
Beyond baby formulas, children’s products that contain engineered nano-particles include skincare products and sunscreens, supplements, food containers, pacifiers, teethers, blankets, toys and stuffed animals, baby bottles, toothbrushes, baby carriages, bibs, baby clothing and many other products.
What can consumers do?
Until government and companies regulate nanotechnology in a responsible and transparent manner,there are steps we can take to protect our health.
● Breastfeed when and if possible
● Hold government and industry accountable: Join Friends of the Earth to demand a moratorium on the use of nanotechnology in the food sector and urge policy makers to regulate and label food, food packaging and agricultural products containing manufactured nano-materials
● Contact baby formula manufacturers and ask them to remove nano-materials from their products
Sign The Petition:
There is so much more to nanotechnology and the potential outcome it can have. If you would like to learn more and find out how you can help FOE’s efforts to create a safe, just, resilient and sustainable food system click HERE. You can also Sign This Petition telling baby formula companies to remove risky nano-particles from their products.
This post was sponsored by Friends of the Earth but all of my views and words are 100% my own.