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How big is a nanometer?
The term „nano“ derives from the greek word nanos, dwarf. A nanometer is one millionth of a milimeter. It is equal to 1/1,000,000,000th or one-billionth of a meter. When things are this small, you can't see them with your eyes, or a light microscope. Objects this small require a special tool called electron microscope or scanning probe microscope.
Nanoparticles range in size from 1nm to 100nm.
All these naturally and synthetic things are on the nanometer scale: Virus (30-50 nm), DNA (2.5 nm), buckyballs (~1 nm in diameter), CNT (~1 nm in diameter).
What is a nanomaterial?
On 18 October 2011 the EU Commission adopted the Recommendation on the definition of a nanomaterial.
According to this Recommendation a "Nanomaterial" means:
A natural, incidental or manufactured material containing particles, in an unbound state or as an aggregate or as an agglomerate and where, for 50 % or more of the particles in the number size distribution, one or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm - 100 nm.
In specific cases and where warranted by concerns for the environment, health, safety or competitiveness the number size distribution threshold of 50 % may be replaced by a threshold between 1 and 50 %.
By derogation from the above, fullerenes, graphene flakes and single wall carbon nanotubes with one or more external dimensions below 1 nm should be considered as nanomaterials.
What are nanoparticles?
A material is called a nano-object when one, two or three external dimensions of it are present in nanoscale. This includes nanoparticles, i.e. nano-objects with all three external dimensions on the nanoscale. Nano-platelets are nano-objects with one external dimension on the nanoscale, and two much larger external dimensions. Nanofibers have two similar external dimensions on the nanoscale, and a third external dimension that is much larger than the other two dimensions.
These definitions were developed in 2008 by the Technical Committee ISO/TC 229 "Nanotechnologies" in collaboration with the Technical Committee CEN/TC 352 "Nanotechnologies".
Nanoparticles can be of different chemical nature. Both inorganic and organic nanoparticles are known. They can consist of only one element, i.e. metal or carbon or of compounds like oxides, nitrides, etc. Nanocomposites are understood to be composite materials that have at least one component in the form of a nano-object. Nanoparticles often build clusters of aggregates or agglomerates. By contrast to aggregates, agglomerates can be ground into the primary grains through optimal mixing. Therefore, their shape can be very inconsistent and they may take a wide variety of forms which has considerable influence on their properties. In principle, because of their enormous surface-to-mass ratio nanoparticles behave completely different than larger composites.
Are the legal regulations sufficient?
Are legal regulations like chemical legislation and work protection law sufficient to take the special properties of nanoparticles into account? What are the legal requirements concerning nanomaterials in Germany?
In Germany and at European and international level there are no specific legal requirements on nanotechnology. Chemicals (this includes nanomaterials) are subject to chemical legislation, safety and health for employees at work are subject to safety and health regulations. Since 1 July 2008 the European chemicals legislation REACH additionally provides a framework for the assessment of nanomaterials. Whether there is a need for specific action apart from that is investigated in research projects like NanoCare. The results of NanoCare will help in defining future safety measures for nanomaterials.
How dangerous are nanoscale particles that are already present in the environment?
How dangerous are nanoscale particles (ultrafine particles) that are already present in the environment through soot emissions and natural aerosols like SiO2 or beech dust?
Dust and aerosols in the environment can also be hazardous. It is known that i.e. inhaled wood dust from beech and oak in joineries can lead to cancer. Fine dust and diesel exhaust gases are known to have an impact on the human respiration system. Research on the effects of nanoparticles will lead to new findings regarding the evaluation of ultrafine particles occurring in the environment. Vice versa, present evaluation studies of fine dust and particles from combustion processes can lead to conclusions about the effects of some synthetic nanoparticles (i.e. in the respiratory tract).
Are there nanoparticles in flu vaccines?
Such vaccines against flu viruses don’t contain any synthetic nanoparticles as they wouldn’t have any task. Because the contact to the antibody-producing cells is made by injecting the vaccine directly into the blood, no “fillers” are needed.
The Paul-Ehrlich Institute (in Germany) gives the following information on its website:
Although some of the components are in a size range of nanoparticles, it is not about synthetic nanoparticles.
To what extent are nano sealings hazardous to the human organism?
To what extent are nano sealings of glass, lacquer, or metal surfaces hazardous to the human organism - during the process of sealing or later, when the surface-treated products are actually used?
These are our opinions on the topic, we exclude any liability claims.
The term nano is not protected. No one guarantees that the corresponding product really contains nano. Some manufacturers use the term because it seems to be effective in advertising.
The lacquer association has conducted a study that examines nanoparticles in lacquers (in German only). The result is described as being positive (from the customer’s point of view).
If no information about the used nanomaterial is provided on the product you can contact the manufacturer to get information about the used nanomaterials. I.e. which ones were used, where do they come from, are there any toxicologic studies on them, did the lacquer association conduct any tests on the product you are interested in? In the best case it can be concluded from these facts whether a risk does exist or not.
How are nanoparticles displayed in the context of recycling management?
Topic: recycling, recovery, secondary raw material
There is no difference to existing products - if they are recyclable products they are recycled. Because nanoparticles often consist of rare materials (silver nanoparticles or rare earths) it will be in the interest of the companies to recycle these materials to prevent a steep increase in the prices of these products on medium-term. Therefore, there will be a self-regulation of the market.
Does a moratorium make sense?
Is it reasonable to call for a regulation that prohibits further research on nanotechnology?
Not from the point of view of DaNa and the NanoCare Cluster. There are indeed still some knowledge gaps, but that is this way with every new area of research. These gaps will be closed by the new findings from the numerous national, European and international projects. In our opinion there are so many positive aspects to nanotechnology (i.e. in the medical sector or in the protection of the environment.) that a moratorium would be contra productive.
As many processes in nature take place on the nanoscale, research on nanotechnology will lead to a better understanding of these natural processes. Advances in medicine would be very difficult if research on nanotechnology was not allowed any more. Of course the intended goals of every single project have to be validated. Ethically dubious projects are rejected by most scientists and all sponsors.
For the nanotechnologists their science is just like any other: what matters are the people working in this field and what they make of it.
How does the chemical industry participate in the social debate on nanotechnology?
The chemical industry is contributing to the social debate on nanotechnology in two ways: by providing information and by engaging in dialogues. Employees present their own research results to the public at conferences and in publications. Some companies inform about topics like work protection or about a nanotechnology code of conduct (EU-Codex) on their websites.
The chemical industry is proactive on possible concerns and worries of people regarding their products. It participated with own works in research projects like NanoCare, INOS and TRACER and is involved in the public dialogue. The industry also takes part in other ongoing research projects like Carbosafe.
Fry pans with nanocoatings: Do nanoparticles come off during frying?
Do particles pass over into the food? Will this cause health hazards?
As a rule, cookware non-stick coatings have nothing to do with the nanoparticles discussed hereunder but consist of very heat-resistant polymers applied in layers. The effect of the surfaces obtained that way is similar to the well-known roll-off effect of the lotus plant. Since manufacturers mostly make a mystery (patent) out of these kinds of coatings, there is no exact information about their possible hazards. However, since only „safe consumer products“ are allowed on the market, the non-stick coatings are assumed to be safe as well.
Is there a list with products containing nanoparticles
There are some Websites that list producs with nanotechnology, for example:
Nanoproducts.de - the nanotechnology product database (in German and Englisch): http://www.nanoproducts.de
The Project of Emerging Nanotechnologies (in Englisch): http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/consumer/browse/products
Is it justified to approve nanobased shoe care sprays?
Shopping for shoes, I came across some kind of a nanobased shoe care spray. The substances contained are distributed as aerosols whose potential hazards are discussed in numerous articles. Considering this and the present state of knowledge, is it justified to have such sprays approved?
Since consumer safety has priority, the approval of such products is subject to legal regulations. In spite of this, however, legislation cannot always check and verify all substances, and dubious products may well appear on the market. Due to the very fine aerosols and containing solvents and active components compressed-gas sprays are often labeled as hazardous to health and should be used according to instructionsClassification and approval have been required even before such “nanosprays” have been existing. Serious accidents already happened in the70s of the 20th century with leather sprays or textile sprays, i.e. with surface-active substances applied to leather or to textiles. The fine mists of these products are easily inhaled by the consumer to settle down in parts of the lung tissue and impair health. This is also true for sprays containing the alleged “nanoparticles”, since sprays of that kind also depend on the use of additives and solvents. The pressurized dispensers are marked ”harmful to health“ and should be used outdoors, protected from the wind! To our knowledge, there are not any sprays available that really contain nanoparticles.
What´s the opinion of the EU on nanotechnology?
The EU sees nanotechnology as one of the leading technologies. See also the Lund paper as pdf for download.
Do they apply nanoparticles to chocolate, to extend the shelf life?
After consulting an international manufacturer of chocolate bars, neither nanotechnologies at all nor nanoparticles were and are used in conjunction with their chocolate.
A patent contains a method for coating in the "plasma", but this meas that the chocolate melts. The patent was never applied! Other foods can not be exposed to a plasma too.
What quantities of titanium dioxide nanoparticles are produced annually worldwide?
About 4.7 million tons of pigmentary titanium dioxide (non-nano) are produced annually. The amount of nanoscale titanium dioxide produced is less than 1 percent thereof (less than approximately 47000 tons).
My netbook keyboard has a coating of silver nanoparticles. Is it harmful to my health to use the netbook every day?
Are silver particles or silver ions being released?
Just as silver as a metal has hardly any effect, the silver nanoparticles on your keyboard are “without effect”. The antibacterial effect occurs as soon as silver ions are released from the particles. In fact, however, the quantity of silver used in the keyboard coatings is so small that the amount of released ions is quasi irrelevant. Far more ions are released from e.g., sterling cutlery when in contact with food, water, acids or other substances. Moreover, you never known whether your keyboard’s silver coating is real or just a faked advertising gimmick.
How can it be explained that nanoparticles change their optical properties?
Why, for example, are titanium dioxide nanoparticles transparent once they have reached a certain size?
This is due to a physical effect. Any object that is clearly smaller than the wavelength of the visible light is invisible. Visible light is composed of wavelengths in the range of approximately 380 – 790 nanometers. Particles that measure e.g. 100 nanometers are not visible anymore. This, however, happens only under extraordinary conditions: As soon as several particles are found one in front of or beside the other, they (normally) take on a white color and become visible again due to e.g. diffraction or dispersion. In spite of this, not all of the particles’ chemical and physical properties change at the nanolevel. Absorption properties, for example, persist i.e., the particles do not reflect light anymore, thus are transparent but actually absorb UV radiation.
Can nanoparticles be released from nano-finished sinks or washbowls and the like and can they pass into the body?
Most of such nano-finished sanitary ware is surface-structured and exhibits the dirt-repellent lotus effect that is typical of leaves. This effect helps keep surfaces clean or serves to make them easily cleanable. However, this is not achieved by using nanoparticles or by applying them to the respective surfaces but by treating the latter with chemicals. Occasionally, some manufacturers may aftertreat the surfaces with nanoparticles. Details should be requested from them directly or from the selling shop. The probability of getting exposed to nanoparticles released from surface-structured products is very low.
Is it nano when the label says it is?
Many companies promote their products as “nano” because nanotechnology is in vogue today: Software companies, for instance, offer “nanotools”, i.e. small additional programs that adapt existing software to the special needs of computer users. Tata “Nano” is a very small car manufactured by the Indian vehicle manufacturer Tata Motors. Car washs praise their “nano” polishes which contain finest substances for extra-brilliant finishes. For all that, nanomaterials are not always used or contained in the respective products. So far, there are neither regulations as to the conditions under which manufacturers are allowed to pride themselves in selling “nano” nor as to when it is mandatory to label the use of nanomaterials (with exceptions in the food law and cosmetics law that have been enacted to become effective in the coming years). Yet, some products really contain nanosubstances. For years, industry has been experimenting with small parts and products which, however, have not yet been systematically developed. Suncreams, for example, have been offered for a while with very fine titanium dioxide powders used as physical sun protection agents.
Are nanomaterials required to be licensed?
No. But although licensing is currently not mandatory for nanomaterials or nanoproducts, they, like any other chemical, must be approved depending on their use and must be safe in accordance with the Chemicals Act. Food is an exception to the rule: The nanomodified food additives that have been given new properties are required to pass a special approval procedure even if their name has been licensed before. However, this is nothing special considering that it applies to all food additives that are to fulfill a new function. The so-called nanocapsules used today already in dietary supplements transport vitamins and minerals to where they are needed in the body. These nanocapsules, in fact, are but “nanosmall” naturally occurring structures that are neither characterized by new properties nor cause any biological effects of their own. Therefore, they are mostly not considered as nanomaterials in the truest sense of the meaning and, hence, are not subject to approval. Food packagings that contain nanoparticles do not have to be approved, either, but by law must not release any nanosubstances into the food. For that reason, antibacterial nanosilver coatings on plastic films and crockery, although highly advertised, are at the same time highly controversial. Critics demand that such coatings be prohibited until the effects of nanosilver on the body and on the environment have been assessed.
How much federal funding is provided for R&D into nanotechnologies?
In 2009, the total federal funding for R & D into nanotechnologies amounted to 382 million €, of which approximately 354 million € were contributed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
How much federal funding has been provided in the period from 2009 to 2012 for safety research in the field of nanotechnology?
The Federal Ministries of Education and Research, Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Labor and Social Affairs, and Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection have been spending approximately 14.18 million € per year on risk research projects and supporting research.
How many and what kinds of nanomaterials-containing pharmaceuticals are known (to the Federal Government)?
There is still only a very small number of pharmaceuticals that according to the relevant admission data contain nanomaterials. Among them are drugs for treatment of tumor diseases (e.g. Caelyx; Mepact; Abraxane; Rapamune; Renagel), chronic hepatitis (e.g. PegIntron; Pegasys), acromegaly (e.g. Somavert), multiple sclerosis (e.g. Copaxone), febrile neuropathy (e.g. Neulasta), Morbus Crohn (e.g. Cimzia), age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (e.g. Macugen), increased LDL-C values and diabetes mellitus type 2 (e.g. Welchol) as well as MRT contrast agents (in-vivo diagnostics) with iron oxide nanoparticles (e.g. Feridex) and parenteral iron (e.g. Cosmofer, Ferrlecit). Besides, several authors refer to drugs containing nanoscale molecules and particles e.g., liposomes (Caelyx, Myocet), polymer-protein conjugates (PegIntron, Somavert) or polymeric substances (Copaxone).
How many and what kinds of nanomaterials-containing medical products are known (to the Federal Government)?
There are some exemplary fields of application of nanomaterials-containing medical products: General medicine: Additional antimicrobial effect achieved through silver coatings on dressings and surgical stockings. Cardiology: Coating of catheters (silver coatings) for bacteriostasis. Implantology: Achievement of biocompatibility through coating with titanium-containing materials; modification of implant surface properties through coating with diamond materials improving the contact surfaces; use of crystalline hydroxyl apatite as bone replacement material. Dialysis technology: Nano-treatment of membranes and hollow fibers for achievement of specific filtration properties. Oncology: Use of magnetic iron-containing nanoparticles in tumor therapy for local tissue destruction by means of high-frequency alternating magnetic fields; use of special antibody-coated catheters for diagnosis of tumor-specific cells in the blood. A database containing all medical products available on the market in Europe is underway.
Can nanoparticles pass the blood-brain barrier?
Researchers are trying to shed light on open issues such as these. In spite of intensive efforts that serve to develop treatments for e.g. brain tumors which cannot be treated otherwise, it seems to be rather difficult so far to intentionally force sufficient quantities of nanoparticles over the blood-brain barrier. In view of this fact, it is rather improbable that nanoparticles other than the specially tailored ones will pass the barrier unintentionally. For all that, it was found that nanoparticles can reach the brain by passing through the olfactory nerve. All experimental results obtained so far, however, indicate that the quantity of nanoparticles reaching the brain either via the blood-brain barrier or via the olfactory nerve in the olfactory epithelium of the nose is very small. Further research remains to be done to solve these issues.
Is cell phone radiation nanoparticulate?
No. It is electromagnetic.
How can I protect myself from nanoparticles?
As nanoparticles are omnipresent in the natural environment, one cannot really protect oneself from them in daily life and dust masks help only partially. Up to 10,000 naturally occurring nanoparticles per cubic centimeter fly around in clean air. The smoke of one cigarette increases the amount of these particles to over 100,000 in the surrounding area. The natural NP derive from dust storms (e.g. in the Sahara), forest fires, volcanic eruptions, etc., and can be transported over large distances. Normally, this is nothing to worry about, because our body can handle these nanoparticles. Yet, in principle, protection is possible: In the nanoparticle industry, employers must provide appropriate protective equipment (fume hoods, clothing, masks with "nano-filters") to ensure that employees are not endangered. For best possible protection, the maximum allowable values are reviewed annually.
How can I recognize whether a product contains nanoparticles?
At the moment, not at all: On the one hand, products that do not contain any nanosubstances are advertised as “nano”, on the other hand, there is no obligation to label products that do contain nanoparticles. This will change in the cosmetics (and food) industry: From 2013 (food industry: from fall 2014), nano-ingredients must be labeled on the respective products.