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One of the most effective flimflam ploys is to trot out an “expert” who confirms that the product he or she is selling is absolutely essential for your well being. This “authority” will go on to mention that in the course of their studies of competing products, they discovered that these competing products will very likely cause you harm.
Actually, the expert is used as a shill to usurp your freedom of choice and dictate what you should regard as “health” and health-promoting practices. Similar ploys have been used by colloidal silver manufacturers, which have resulted in confusion and fear among those most interested in using silver.
We can best avoid manipulation by coming to a deeper understanding about different types of colloidal silver, production methods, issues of safety and usefulness.
First some basics..
A colloid consists of minute particles that float within a liquid despite the pull of gravity. To stay in suspension for any length of time, these particles must be smaller that 1 micron (1/1000 of an inch).
When fresh produce is processed through a juicer, a colloid results in the form of a glass of juice. As a juice colloid sits, the larger particles begin to fall out of suspension and settle at the bottom of the container. To evenly distribute the contents it is common to shake up a bottle of juice before drinking.
In the case of colloidal silver, silver particles are pulled off of a pure silver electrode that is immersed in water by applying a low voltage electric current, giving each particle an electric charge. This charge, though long lasting, is not permanent, and both daylight and time will cause a colloid to lose its charge. This loss is referred to as “falling out”, or “plating out”. ref: 15
While colloidal silver is light sensitive, it is not nearly so light sensitive as camera film. Under the midday California summer sun, colloidal silver can be expected to oxidize in about ten minutes. Indoors, under ambient and artificial light, colloidal silver will oxidize in about three days. This only means colloidal silver should be stored in tinted or opaque containers.
Many colloidal silver manufacturers claim that if the silver particles are “too large,” the resulting brew will prove injurious to the public health.
The truth can be found in many science textbooks. When applying current to solver in solution, metallic silver will always break off at the same size, 1.26 angstroms (.00001 microns). ref: 16 This particle is so small that the next stop on the road to smallness is the atom itself.
Colloids are by nature the smallest particles matter can be divided into while still retaining individual characteristics. Reducing a piece of metallic silver into a cloud of microscopic particles greatly extends its total surface area, and so its healing properties, while deepening its penetration into the body.
Because the silver particles are charged, they strive to combine with other elements in the solution. Trace elements exist even in distilled water, and when the charged silver particles combine with a specific trace element, the solution will turn a number of colors like gray, yellow, green or brown. Whatever element the silver chooses is largely irrelevant.
Once in the body, the silver releases its bond in search of stronger attachments in an effort to stabilize its charge. Therefore, once the silver colloid has entered the body, the original silver particles measuring 1.26 angstroms (about the size of fifteen atoms) quickly pass through the stomach lining and into the blood stream, where they circulate for about a week before elimination.
The body’s ability to process the tiny atoms of colloidal silver makes silver buildup in the body impossible.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Poison Control Center reports a No Toxicity listing for colloidal silver. In fact, it appears that harmlessness is one of the attributes of the colloid physiology, regardless of content.
For example, when examining a bottle of colloidal minerals from the local health food store I noticed arsenic, nickel and lead among the sixty-five trace minerals listed in the contents. ref: 17 In other words, if the particles are small enough, you can even drink arsenic.
Since the body is known to have a vital need for silver to maintain both the immune system and the production of new healthy cells, and due to the harmonious nature of colloids entering the body (our blood is also a colloid), it stands within reason that colloidal silver may literally be the safest medicine on earth.
So how do you frighten people away from the safest and most powerful medicine on earth? You tell them that the bogeyman will get them. If they’re too sophisticated for that, tell them they’ll get a strange, archaic disease like Argyria. Actually, there is no record of anyone ever contracting Argyria from colloidal silver made by the electrolytic method. ref: 18
Argyria is a harmless and infrequent cosmetic condition where some parts of the body take on a slight bluish cast due to ingesting chemical compounds of which silver is only one component. Argyria did not seem to bother the royal “blue blood” families of Europe, who stayed healthy throughout the plagues of the Middle Ages by ingesting large amounts of silver.
About Good Bacteria..
Some say that consuming large amounts of colloidal silver over long periods of time may kill friendly bacteria in your intestines.
Personally, I have seen no evidence of beneficial bacteria ever being harmed. This issue is not a problem, and unlike antibiotics, colloidal silver does not weaken the body’s immune system. In fact, it is said to give the body a second immune system, creating a shield against disease of all kinds.
Just to prove a point to myself, I made a sixteen-ounce solution of well over 250-ppm and drank it. I repeated this procedure every day for four days in a row. I easily drank the equivalent of fifty sixteen-ounce glasses of 5-ppm colloidal silver every day! I did not eat yogurt, acidophilus, or compensate for friendly bacteria loss in any way.
The only side effect was that I just seemed to feel better. This makes sense according to Capitol Drugs pharmacist Ton Barnes, R.Ph.:
Many strains of pathogenic microbes, viruses, fungi, bacteria or any other single-celled pathogen resistant to other antibiotics are killed on contact by colloidal silver, and are unable to mutate. However, it does not harm tissue-cell enzymes and friendly bacteria.
The noted biomedical researcher from Syracuse University, and author of The Body Electric and Cross Currents, Dr. Robert O. Becker, MD, has observed the healing effects of silver. Writing about his experience with older patients, Dr. Becker wrote:
Silver did more than kill disease-causing organisms. It promoted major growth of bone, and accelerated the healing of injured tissues by over 50%.
He also discovered that silver “profoundly stimulates healing in skin and other soft tissues in a way unlike any known natural process..”
Dr. Becker discovered that the silver was promoting a new kind of cell growth, which looked like the cells of children! He wrote:
These cells grew fast producing a diverse and surprising assortment of primitive cell forms able to multiply at a great rate, then differentiate into the specific cells of an organ or tissue that had been injured, even in patients over fifty years old. ref: 20
In a remarkable clinic trial with fourteen elderly patients, Dr. Robert O. Becker inserted silver electrode wire directly into wounds, using the body’s own juices for the liquid solution while applying current from the external ends. (The voltage used, 0.9, is too low to cause sensation.)
With this technique, Dr. Becker was able to heal infections inside broken bones, one of the worst kinds of infections to control, as well as heal actual bone fractures and breaks which had previously failed to heal. In some cases he left silver surgically implanted in the body. In others, he sewed the wound up around the protruding silver electrode wire. Once the wound had healed, “the implanted silver wire was easily withdrawn from the wound manually without the need for surgery or anesthesia.”
The Natural Antiseptic
Regarding the innate ability of metallic silver to control infection, Dr. Becker said, “All of the organisms that we tested were sensitive to the electrically generated silver ion, including some that were resistant to all known antibiotics.”
Regarding the safety of pure silver being inserted into the body, Dr. Becker said, “In no case were any undesirable side effects of the silver treatment apparent.”
The healing properties of silver are so all-encompassing that we see researchers expressing amazement time and time again.
Alfred Searle, founder of the pharmaceutical conglomerate, wrote in 1919 that..
Applying colloidal silver to human subjects has been done in a large number of cases with astonishingly successful results. For internal administration, orally or hypodermically it has the advantage of being rapidly fatal to parasites without toxic action on its host. It is quite stable. It protects rabbits from ten times the lethal dose of tetanus or diphtheria toxin. ref: 21
Physicians use silver compounds in seventy percent of all the burn centers in the United States. British Airways, Swissair, Scandinavian Airlines, Lufthansa, Olympic, Air France, Canadian Pacific Airlines, AlItalia, KLM, Japan Airlines and Pan Am all use silver water filters to curtail waterborne diseases. In fact NASA uses a silver water purification system for the space shuttle and so do the Soviets. Japanese firms even remove cyanide and nitric oxide from the air with silver.
Make you own Silver Colloid
As it is currently marketed through local health food stores, colloidal silver contains anywhere from 1 to 500 parts per million (ppm) and sells for as much as $21.95 for two ounces. An average adult dose might be anywhere from a tablespoon per day to a sixteen ounce tumbler, or more, since no toxic dose is known.
Thanks to one physicist’s ref: 14 brilliantly simple design outlined below, you can now construct your own generator and produce unlimited amounts of high-quality colloidal silver concentrate for the price of water! Or you can buy one for less than $100.
Before beginning to make your Colloidal Silver you will need to make a saline solution for enhancing conductivity. If you are using filtered spring water, no saline solution will be needed as spring water already has a natural saline content. If the Silver Colloid is to be ingested or injected, be sure to use distilled water. Tap water is fine for other uses, such as for a topical spray or for plants.
Saline solution can be made by mixing approximately four ounces of distilled water with half a teaspoon of sea salt in a separate container. Do not use common table salt as table salt has chemical additives. After stirring the salt solution for a minute, pour some of the water into an eyedropper bottle.
Now you’re ready to make Colloidal Silver. Pour eight ounces of distilled water into your glass. Add 2 or 3 drops of saline solution to water and stir with a plastic/nonconductive utensil. Insert silver electrode wires. Placement of wires is not critical, but they must not be touching each other or the process will stop. (You cannot shock yourself in this process so do not be concerned.) Attach alligator clips to the ends of the silver electrode wires coming over the outside rim of the glass and you will see a gray mist inside the glass start to peel away from the positive polarity wire while bubbles of hydrogen rise from the other.
Laboratory tests show that this method creates a silver colloid of approximately 1-ppm per minute of activation time. Since you are only taking microscopic particles from the silver wire, your silver wire may very well last for a year.
The brightness of the light bulb is related to the conductivity of the water. It is not necessarily a problem if the bulb is very dim or even remains dark as long as the process itself is occurring. Of course, when batteries are old, the light will also become dimmer, signaling it’s time for a change. Touch the alligator clips together to test the brightness of the bulb as a battery check. A fresh set of batteries should last a year or more.
When finished, detach alligator clips. Clean silver electrode wire after each use to remove dark oxide on the anode. Use a small piece of 1/4″ thick nylon kitchen scouring pad to polish dried silver, then wipe with paper napkin to make ready for next use.
Store your Colloidal Silver in dark, nonconductive (and if plastic, non-reactive) containers, like empty hydrogen peroxide bottles. Keep away from light, as even room light will degrade colloids rapidly by turning solution gray or black just as exposure to light darkens silver in camera film.
Stir thoroughly or shake each time before using. Keep cool, but do not refrigerate. Also, put a few drops of Silver Colloid in the saline solution to prevent fungus growth.
In using your own homemade silver colloid generator it will become apparent that you now have the power to safely protect yourself, your family, your pets and plants, your community, and (through dissemination of this information), our nation, from over 650 pathogens, viruses, microbes, fungi and parasites. Upon creating your first batch of colloidal silver, you will find it tastes the same as untreated water. And it won’t sting, even in a baby’s eyes.
Make your own Silver Colloid Generator
Three 9V-type MN 1604 regular alkaline transistor radio batteries
Three battery snap-on lead connectors
Two insulated alligator clips
One 24V-40mA subminiature incandescent bulb
One foot of 3/32″ heat shrink insulation tubing
One foot of 2-conductor stranded, insulated twisted-wire for clip leads
A small box to put it all in
Ten inch piece of pure silver wire (.999 fine)
While it has been discovered that 30 volts is the ideal for Silver Colloid production, 27 volts is very effective and happens to be the convenient result of wiring three 9-volt batteries together. This should cost under $30.00 for everything. Assuming some skill with a soldering iron, you should spend about thirty minutes constructing the generator.
Solder your three snap-on battery clips in series (red to black) to provide 27 volts. Connect a 24V incandescent lamp in series with either positive or negative output lead. Solder the red insulated alligator clip to the positive (anode) and the black insulated clip to the negative (cathode) 2 conductor lead wires. Insulation is shrunk over soldered connections using a heat gun or hair dryer.
Cut your 10″ of silver wire in half. Bend top ends of your two 5″ silver electrode wires so they can clip over the top rim of a plastic or glass cup (not metal). About 4″ of each wire should be submerged. WARNING! Use ONLY pure silver (.999 fine) electrodes. #14 gauge is the preferred thickness. Pure silver is sometimes available at electroplating supply companies. Or, inquire at a jewelry store specializing in silver about who their wholesale supplier is. Do not confuse sterling silver (.9275) with pure silver since sterling also contains other metals. With this in mind, you may want to have a chemical analysis (assay) of your purchased silver in addition to the written word of your supplier.
Yellow Colloidal Silver
You may hear of yellow colloidal silver. The reason most manufacturers favor yellow colored colloidal silver is not because it is more effective than other types, but because it has a longer shelf life before falling out of solution. This stability in solution doesn’t automatically translate into a smaller combined particle size between the silver ion and the trace element that it has attached itself to. It may simply be that the trace element that the silver has combined with is more water-soluble. In either case it’s a moot point.
Simply put, the most effective colloidal silver is not a question of color, but of freshness and highest concentration density. ref: 22 I couldn’t find any medical evidence that the yellow colloid is more effective than the silver colored colloid. Nevertheless, I include a recipe for yellow colloidal silver so people can compare the effects of the yellow and silver solutions for themselves.
Yellow colloidal silver can be made by using distilled water and no saline, or very little. Because the water is not as conductive as water containing more saline, the process time needs to be extended.
1. Pour hot water (approximately 150F) into a sixteen-ounce glass.
2. Add only 1 drop of saline solution.
3. Run generator for 20 minutes.
Color will usually deepen after sitting for a number of hours. Concentration will be around 10 parts per million (ppm).
Making Colloidal Silver
In High Concentrations
Extending the process time to make higher concentrations of colloidal silver can be both inefficient and costly for replacing batteries. A smart chemist knows you should always heat the water first to create high concentrations. With this in mind, fifteen minutes of process time should be sufficient to create any desired potency.
For every 10 degrees that the water is heated above room temperature (72F), the parts per million (ppm) will be doubled. Therefore, if 5 ppm resulted after seven minutes of activation with sixteen ounces of water at 72F, then 82F would yield 10-ppm, and 92F would deliver 20-ppm, etc.
You should not boil the water; however, there is still a great deal of leeway between 72F and 212F (boiling). For heating purposes, do not use a teapot because of the pot’s calcification. Use something cleaner, like a stainless steel cooking pot before pouring water into a glass.
Surviving With Colloidal Silver
Were I to end up in the midst of calamity, I would need only water to have one of the most powerful medical resources in the world at my disposal. (Technically, colloidal silver can be made in a variety of common liquids, including beer or soup, but I’m not recommending anyone do this in the normal course of events.)
Under emergency conditions, it would be good to remember that silver coins from 1964 or earlier contain 90 percent silver, 9 percent copper and 1 percent zinc, all of which are known to have beneficial properties if used in a colloidal state. (Keep in mind that copper is known to block the body’s absorption of zinc, which could lead to a zinc deficiency in time.)
The coins would have to be scoured until they were clean and shiny before using. This is mentioned purely as an intellectual consideration and is not a recommendation that anyone undertake any such action under normal conditions. Silver electrode wire is much easier to use.
So what doesn’t colloidal silver do? It doesn’t interact with any other medications. It doesn’t upset the stomach, and, in fact, is a digestion aid. It does not sting in the eyes. Medical journal reports and documented studies spanning the past 100 years indicate no known side effects from oral or IV administration of colloidal silver in animal or human testing. Colloidal silver has been used with good results under the most demanding health care circumstances. ref: 23
Without overstating the case, it may be time to recognize colloidal silver as not only the safest medicine on Earth, but also the most powerful!
1. “Medical malpractice alone kills an estimated 45,000 people annually (in the US), making it the leading cause of accidental injury and death.”—Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD
2. As many as 14,000 people die in Australian hospitals every year through preventable mistakes, ranging from misdiagnosis to being given the wrong drugs. This makes hospitals the third-largest killer in Australia after heart disease and cancer. For those who survive, between 25,000 and 30,000 patients are left with a serious and permanent disability as a result of such mistakes. —The Sydney Morning Herald, 6/2/95 and the New Scientist, 6/10/95
3. Using statistics from the 1984 Harvard study, the National Safety Council and other sources, the Campaign to Protect Consumer Tights says that more people die in the US from medical negligence than any other accidental cause. If these statistics are valid, medical errors kill more people each year than automobiles, falls, drowning, fires, choking, guns and poisons combined.
4. “Only 10 to 20 percent of all medical procedures currently used in medical practice have been shown to be efficacious by controlled trial. –US Office of Technology Assessment
5. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910
6. Health Consciousness Magazine, Val. 15, no. 4
7. Colloidal Silver is proven particularly effective in cases of intestinal troubles. Dr. Henry Crooks found that Silver in the colloidal state is highly germicidal, quite harmless to humans and absolutely nontoxic. Rather than in a chemical compound, the Silver, in the colloidal state, may be applied in a much more concentrated form, with correspondingly better results. All fungus, virus, bacterium, streptococcus, staphylococcus, and other pathogenic organisms are killed in three or four minutes; in fact, there is no microbe known that is not killed by Colloidal Silver in six minutes or less, a dilution of as little as five parts per million, though there are no side effects whatsoever from high concentrations. –“Use of Colloids in Health and Disease,” quoted in “Report: Colloidal Silver.” Health Consciousness, Vol. 15, no. 4.
8. “(Colloidal Silver) is not a chemical compound containing Silver, but pure metallic silver of submicroscopic clusters of just a few atoms, held in suspension in pure water, by the tiny electric charge on each atom.” –Health Consciousness, vol. 15, no. 4.
9. As an antibiotic, Silver kills over 650 disease-causing organisms; resistant strains fail to develop. Silver is absolutely nontoxic. Silver is the best all-around germ fighter we have. Doctors are reporting that, taken internally, it works against syphilis, cholera, and malaria, diabetes and severe burns. –Bio/Tech News, 1995
10. Dr. Bjorn Nordstrom, of the Karolinska Institute (Sweden’s equivalent of our National Institutes of Health), has used Silver in his cancer cure method for many years. He says the whole thing is quite simple. This brought rapid remission in patients given up by other doctors. –“Silver, Our Mightiest Germ Fighter” Science Digest, March 1978.
11. Metallic Silver (Colloid) is nontoxic, however, silver nitrate and other compounds of silver are and should not be ingested. –Dr. Bob Beck
12. Environmental Protection Agency’s Poison Control Center reports no toxicity listing for Colloidal Silver, Considering it harmless in any concentration.
13. The FDA has stated that because Colloidal Silver is (by fifty years) a pre-1938 drug, it may continue to be marketed. Sept. 13, 1991, letter received from consumer safety officer Harold Davis, U.S., Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, the FDA has no jurisdiction regarding a pure, mineral element.
14. The following significant adverse events have occurred following administration of DTP Vaccines: inconsolable crying for more than 3 hours (1/100 doses, high-pitched unusual crying (1/1000 doses), fever higher than 105 degrees Fahrenheit (1/330 doses), transient shock-like (hypotonic, hyporesponsive) episode (1/1750 doses), convulsions (1/1,750 doses), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). (Interestingly, no percentage of SIDS is given-author). Encephalopathy occurring within 7 days following vaccination, and generally consisting of major alterations in consciousness, unresponsiveness, generalized or focal seizures that persist more than a few hours, with failure to recover within 24 hours. Studies have indicated that a personal or family history of seizures is associated with increased frequency of seizures following pertussis immunization, The ACIP and AAP do not consider a family history of seizures to be a contraindication to pertussis vaccine despite the increased risk of seizures in these individuals. As reported with Haemophilus b polysaccharide vaccine, cases of Haemophilus type b disease nay occur… –Excerpts from Lederle-Praxis Biologicals’ own DPT Vaccine package insert. Lederle-Praxis Biologicals is a division of American Cyanamid, which is itself a division of I. G. Farbin, the former Nazi chemical combine who manufactured Zyclon-B. Zyclon-B was the nerve gas used for exterminating millions of human beings in concentration camps. “Concentration” stands for mass “concentrations” of civilian population. In other words, a complete cross-section, including infants, children, senior citizens, etc.
15. Plating out is when the metallic particles of a colloid fall out of suspension by either attaching themselves to the sides of the storage container or simply by settling to the bottom. This creates two problems: (1.) When ingesting colloidal silver, less silver will enter the body because it’s attached to the sides of the container. (2.) Silver particles that enter the body without their electrical charge will have more difficulty in penetrating the stomach wall or in attaching themselves to the cells of the body. Plastic containers build up electrical charge, which can cause plating out, therefore, either non-reactive plastic containers such as hydrogen peroxide bottles, or tinted glass bottles should be used for storage.
16. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 56th edition, 1975-76, page F209.
17. Ameriflax, mineral 72 colloidal minerals product contains 7 major and 65 trace minerals including arsenic, nickel, lead and iodine.
18. After extensive studies Sir Malcolm Morris concluded, “Colloidal silver is free from the drawbacks of other preparations of silver, viz. the pain caused and the discoloration of the skin; indeed, instead of producing irritation it has a distinctly soothing effect.”
19. Treatment of Orthopedic Infections with Electrically Generated Silver Ions. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, American Volume, October 1978. Vol. 60-A, no. 7
20. “To qualify for this study, patients had to have a long-standing infection involving bone and to have had standard treatment with antibiotics and wound care without success.”
21. “Colloidal Preparations of Silver in Pharmacy” British Medical Journal, 1919
22. “Use of Colloids in Health and Disease.” Dr. Henry Crooks found that silver in the colloidal state is highly germicidal, quite harmless to humans and absolutely nontoxic. Rather than in a chemical compound, silver in the colloidal state may be applied in a much more concentrated form with correspondingly better results.
23. “Silver aids the developing fetus in growth, health, and eases the delivery and recovery”. –“Report: Colloidal Silver”, Health Consciousness, Vol. 15, no. 4.
TINY INGREDIENTS BIG RISKS
NANOMATERIALS RAPIDLY ENTERING FOOD AND FARMING
This report was written by Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth-U.S. This report includes updated sections from a Friends of the Earth-U.S., Australia, and Germany (BUND) 2008 report, “Out of the laboratory and onto our plates: Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture.” We would like to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Danielle Fugere and Austin Wilson, As You Sow and Jaydee Hanson, Center for Food Safety.
About Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth-U.S., founded by David Brower in 1969, is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest federation of grassroots environmental groups, with a presence in 74 countries. Friends of the Earth works to defend the environment and champion a more healthy and just world. Through our 45-year history, we have provided crucial leadership in campaigns resulting in landmark environmental laws, precedent-setting legal victories and groundbreaking reforms of domestic and international regulatory, corporate and financial institution policies. http://www.foe.org Any errors or omissions in this report are the responsibility of Friends of the Earth.
© May 2014 by Friends of the Earth.
This report has been edited to reflect new information as of June 13, 2014. Companies who have recently claimed they do not introduce nanoscale titanium dioxide into products highlighted on our nanofoods list have been removed. Friends of the Earth removed 11 products from our nanofoods product list to reflect claims made by companies regarding their use of nanomaterials. We have also added an additional 2 recently confirmed nanofood products to our list. We encourage companies to inquire with their suppliers about the use of nanomaterials (beyond just titanium dioxide) in all products they offer. Lack of labeling laws and regulation in this area make it very difficult to assess the presence of these potentially hazardous ingredients in food, beverages and other products. Please note that Friends of the Earth has not conducted tests on products and cannot guarantee the nanomaterial content of brands on our nanofoods product list. For the purpose of this report we use the term “nano” to include particles up to 1,000 nm in size, due to the evidence of nano-specific problems associated with particles up to this size range.
Executive summary…………………………………………… 4
1. Introduction …………………………………………….. 10
a. What is nanotechnology?
b. Definition of nanomaterials for health and safety assessment
c. Manufactured vs. incidental nanoparticles
d. Nanomaterials are already used widely for their novel properties
e. Why are food and agriculture companies interested in nanotechnology?
f. Edible food coatings
2. Health concerns: Why nanoparticles pose new risks…………………. 15
a. Specific health concerns with nanomaterials in food and food contact materials
b. Nano supplements may cause health problems
c. Migration of nanomaterials from packaging
d. Nanoparticles and the link to Crohn’s disease and immune system dysfunction
e. Health concerns for workers
3. Nanofoods out on the market…………………………………. 20
4. Nanofoods and nanoagriculture pose new environmental risks …………. 25
a. Nanomaterials now in commercial use pose serious ecological hazards
b. Impacts on aquatic ecosystems
c. Impacts on soils
d. Bioaccumulation of nanomaterials
e. Risks from pesticides with nanoscale active ingredients
f. The intentional environmental release of nano-agrochemicals is of great concern
g. Nanobiotechnology and synthetic biology pose even more uncertain hazards
h. Nanotechnology in agriculture and food production has broader environmental costs
5. Nanofood regulatory gaps must be urgently addressed……………….. 31
6. Urgently needed research …………………………………… 32
7. Recommendations ………………………………………… 33
8. References ……………………………………………… 36
TINY INGREDIENTS, BIG RISKS
This new analysis by Friends of the Earth documents a 10-fold increase in unregulated, unlabeled “nanofood” products on the American market over the past six years. A growing body of science suggests that these materials pose risks to the health of consumers, workers and the environment. Nanomaterials are produced by way of nanotechnology and are now found in a broad range of products. Nanotechnology has been provisionally defined as relating to materials, systems and processes, which exist or operate at a scale of 100 nanometers (nm) or less. However, this definition is still in flux, and some U.S. and EU regulators define nanomaterials as being in a size range of less than 1,000 nm across for drugs and other purposes. Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of materials and the creation of structures and systems at the scale of atoms and molecules, the nanoscale. The properties and effects of nanoscale particles and materials differ significantly from larger particles of the same chemical composition. According to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, foods containing nanomaterials are rapidly entering the market at a rate of three to four per week. The number of nanofood and beverage products we know to be on the market has grown to 87—a more than tenfold increase in six years. In 2008, Friends of the Earth released a groundbreaking report on the use of nanomaterials in food and agriculture, “Out of the laboratory and onto our plates: Nanotechnology in food and agriculture.” Six years later, the U.S. Government has made little progress in protecting the public from these potentially dangerous food ingredients, despite the fact that the number of nanofoods on the market is expanding rapidly.
Key findings of this report include:
• Nanomaterials are found in a broad array of common foods. Many food items that Americans eat on a daily basis contain nanomaterial ingredients. These include familiar products such as processed and cream cheeses, cookies, doughnuts, coffee creamer, chocolate syrup and other chocolate products, pudding, mayonnaise, mashed potatoes, milk, soy, almond, and rice beverages, mints, gum, popcorn, salad dressing and oils, yogurt, cereal, candy, crackers, pasta and sports drinks. There is also mounting evidence that nanomaterials are being used to package and preserve fresh fruit and vegetable products, which could threaten the integrity of staple healthy foods.
• The amount of nanofood we know to be on the market has grown more than tenfold in six years. In 2008 we found 8 food and beverage products with nano-ingredients on the market. In 2014, the number of nanofood and beverage products we know to be on the market has grown to 87—a more than tenfold increase in six years. This analysis is based on information documented in the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Project on Emerging Technologies Consumer Products Database, however, the rapid growth in nanofood products on the market has yet to be analyzed or reported on in mainstream media. These products are being made by major companies including Kraft, General Mills, Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Unilever, Smucker’s and Albertsons. Due to a lack of required labeling and disclosure, the number of food and beverage products containing undisclosed nanomaterials is likely much greater.
• Major food companies are investing billions in nanofood and nanopackaging.
Roughly 200 transnational food companies are currently investing in nanotech and are on their way to commercializing products. The nanofoods market is expected to grow to US$20.4 billion by 2020.
• An increasingly large body of peer-reviewed evidence indicates some nanomaterials may harm human health and the environment. Nanomaterials have unique properties that offer many new opportunities for food industry applications, such as potent nutritional additives, stronger flavorings and colorings, or antibacterial ingredients for food packaging. However, these same properties may also result in greater toxicity for humans and the environment. Nanoparticles pose new risks because:
-They can be more chemically reactive and more bioactive than larger particles of the same chemicals.
– Due to their very small size, nanoparticles also have much greater access to our bodies, so they are more likely than larger particles to enter cells, tissues and organs. – Greater bioavailability and greater bioactivity may introduce new toxicity risks. – They can compromise our immune system response.
– They may have long-term pathological effects. Nanoparticles of silver, titanium dioxide, zinc and zinc oxide, materials now used in nutritional supplements, food packaging and food contact materials, have been found to be highly toxic to cells in test tube and animal studies. Preliminary environmental studies also suggest that these substances may be toxic to ecologically significant species such as certain crustaceans, which are an important part of the food chain. Yet there is still no nanotechnology-specific regulation or safety testing required before manufactured nanomaterials can be used in food, food packaging, or agricultural products. Health experts have also raised concerns that the widespread use of nanosilver in consumer products will further increase the problem of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Nano titanium dioxide (Ti02)
Most of the nanomaterial food products Friends of the Earth identifies in this report contain nano titanium dioxide. In laboratory studies, nanoparticles
of titanium dioxide have been found to be immunologically active, meaning they cause a reaction from the body’s defensive system. Recent studies have indicated these particles may play an important role in the initiation or exacerbation of
gastrointestinal inflammation, by adsorbing bacterial fragments and then carrying them across the gastro-intestinal tract.
In the Woodrow Wilson inventory of nano products, silver is the most common nanomaterial mentioned in product descriptions. A recent court case in the United States found that the use of nano-silver was ‘ubiquitous’ and that there was no way for consumers to avoid exposure. Food and food contact products identified as containing nano-silver include baby bottles, food containers, packaging, cutting boards, salad bowls, appliances, cutlery, ice trays, filtration devices and collapsible coolers. In agriculture it is used in poultry production and agricultural and aquacultural disinfectants. There is mounting evidence that nanosilver may
have greater toxic effects when compared with bulk silver. Nano-silver can better penetrate biological barriers and attach itself to the outside of cells. Nanoscale silver can also enter the bloodstream and reach all organs of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, bone marrow and nervous tissue.[F1] Animal studies have shown placental transfer and fetal uptake of nano-silver, a finding made disturbing by a recent study that found exposure to nano-silver caused zebra fish embryos to develop with head abnormalities and no eyes. Zebra fish have been widely used as a model organism for the study of embryological development in other vertebrates including humans. Health experts have also raised concerns that the widespread use of nano-silver in consumer products will further increase the problem of
• Nanomaterials raise concerns for the health of workers In the food sector, workers may come into contact with nanomaterials during production, packaging, transport, distribution and waste disposal of food and agrochemicals. To date, there is very little data relating to the exposure of workers to nanomaterials. Studies have shown that nanomaterials can enter the bloodstream via the lungs, raising major occupational health and safety concerns.
• Nanotechnology also poses broader challenges to the development of more sustainable food and farming systems Against the backdrop of climate change, there is growing public interest in reducing the distances that food travels between producers and consumers. Nanotechnology appears likely to promote transport of fresh and processed foods over even greater distances. It has the potential to further concentrate corporate control of global agriculture and food systems and entrench systems of reliance on chemical and energy-intensive
agriculture technologies. The erosion of local farmers’ control of food production is also a source of concern.
• Nano-agrochemicals are now being used on farms and released into the environment in the absence of regulations Conventional agrochemicals have polluted soils and waterways and have caused substantial disruption to ecosystems. Exposure to agrochemicals has also been linked with greater incidence of cancer and serious reproductive problems among agricultural workers and their families. Consequently, it is of great concern that nano-agrochemicals are now being used on farms and released into the environment, absent regulations that require product manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of new, more potent nanoscale formulations of existing chemicals.
• U.S. regulation of nanomaterials is wholly inadequate and leaves consumers, workers and the environment at risk A growing number of civil society organizations worldwide have called for precautionary management of nanotechnology, culminating in the release of “Principles for the Oversight of
Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials.” More than 70 groups from six continents have endorsed that document. While the U.S. FDA is charged with ensuring “the safety and security of our nation’s food supply,” at this time the agency has merely offered nonbinding guidance to industry on the use of
nanomaterials in food. However, the agency’s 2012 draft guidance on the use of nanomaterials in food warns about the different properties of nanomaterials compared to ingredients used in traditional manufactured food substances. Nevertheless, the lack of established regulations allows nanofood products to remain on the market while the public takes up potential health risks. The extent to which nanomaterials are used along the food chain continues to be shrouded with mystery. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has legal powers to compel nano agrochemicals manufacturers to provide toxicity data and to demonstrate product safety — that is, to place the burden of proof on the manufacturers. Producers of pesticide products must submit scientific and technical data for EPA review. However, according to a U.S. General Accountability Office report, “EPA estimated that companies provided information on only about 10 percent of the nanomaterials that are likely to be commercially available. EPA also reported that in its review of data submitted through its data collection program there were instances in which the details of the manufacturing, processing, and use of the nanomaterials, as well as exposure and toxicity data, were not provided.” Moreover, the extent to which nanomaterials are used along the food chain continues to be shrouded with mystery due to the lack of publicly accessible product registries or product labels made mandatory by our regulators, leaving consumers, workers, other companies along the supply chain and even regulators in the dark. [F2]
Given the potentially serious health and environmental risks and social implications associated with nanofoods, Friends of the Earth is calling for:
A moratorium on the further commercial release of food products, food packaging, food contact materials and agrochemicals that contain manufactured
nanomaterials until nanotechnology-specific safety and labeling laws are established and the public is involved in decision-making[F3].
What government must do:
Nanomaterials must be regulated as new substances.
• All manufactured nanomaterials must be subject to safety assessments as new substances, even where the properties of their larger scale counterparts
are well known.
• All deliberately manufactured nanomaterials must be subject to rigorous nano-specific health and environmental impact assessment and demonstrated
to be safe prior to approval for commercial use in foods, food packaging, food contact materials or agricultural applications.
• Assessments must be based on the precautionary principle and the onus must be on manufacturers to comprehensively demonstrate the safety of their product. No data, no market.
• Safety assessment must be based on the nano content of products, not marketing claims.
• Safety assessment must include the product’s entire life cycle.
The size-based definition of nanomaterials must be extended.
• All particles up to 1,000 nm in size must be considered to be “nanomaterials” for the purposes of health and environment assessment, given the early evidence that they may pose health risks similar to particles less than 100 nm in size which have to date been defined as “nano.” Transparency in safety assessment and product labeling is essential.
• All relevant data related to safety assessments, and the methodologies used to obtain them, must be placed in the public domain. ù All manufactured nano-ingredients must be clearly indicated on product labels to allow members of the public to make an informed choice about product use. ù The presence of nanomaterials must be disclosed to workers and other downstream users along the supply chain. Public involvement in decision-making is required.
• The public, including all affected stakeholder groups, must be involved in all aspects of decision making regarding nanotechnology in food and agriculture. This includes in the development of regulatory regimes, labeling systems, and prioritization of public funding for food and agricultural research. People’s right to avoid nanofoods must be recognized explicitly. Support for sustainable food and farming is needed.
• The assessment of food and agricultural nanotechnology, in the context of wider societal needs for sustainable food and farming, must be incorporated into relevant decision making processes.
What industry must do:
Food producers and retailers must respect people’s right to healthy foods, in which all ingredients have been proven safe. Food producers and retailers must
stop selling nanofood, nanofood packaging, nanofood contact materials and nano-agrochemicals until:
• The public is involved in decision making.
• Nanotechnology-specific regulation is put in place to protect the public, workers and the environment from potential new hazards associated with nano-toxicity.
• All manufactured nano-ingredients are clearly indicated on product labels, allowing members of the public to make an informed choice about product use.
• The presence of nanomaterials is disclosed to workers and other downstream users along the supply chain.
• Manufacturers work with regulators to ensure that their products have undergone appropriate safety testing, and provide the relevant data regarding
the health and environmental safety of their product. No data, no market.
• All relevant data related to safety assessments, and the methodologies used to obtain them, are placed in the public domain.
• All food and agricultural products which include manufactured nanomaterials are clearly labeled to allow members of the public, workers and farmers
to make an informed choice. What concerned individuals and organizations can do: Until we can move our government and companies to manage nanotechnology in a responsible and transparent manner, there are steps we can take to protect our health and the environment. Avoiding nanofoods and supporting a sustainable, just food system
• Avoid eating highly processed foods and eat more fresh food instead[F4]. Processed foods not only have higher environmental costs of production and have lower nutritional value, they are also a large source of incidentally produced nanoparticles in foods. • Avoid highly packaged foods — packaging is
energy intensive and produces lots of waste and is often unnecessary. Let your local food outlets and the manufacturers of your favourite foods know that you want to see less food packaging.
• Choose food that is healthy for you and the environment, and pays a fair wage to food producers. There are many simple steps we can all take to make food choices that are good for our health, good for the environment, and that support fair
conditions for farmers.
• Make environmentally friendly food and farming choices — look out for the organic label at your supermarket or store.[F5]
• Support local food producers and small scale retailers and buy directly from local farmers, butchers and bakers. You could even consider joining a food co-operative or bulk-buying scheme.
• Support the right of communities to control local food trade, including deciding how food is grown, who can sell it and what can be imported. Hold government and industry to account for nanofoods
• Write to your local representatives and members of state, federal and regional government, requesting their support for a moratorium on the use of all nanotechnology in the food sector. Demand that governments regulate and label
food, food packaging and agricultural products that contain manufactured nanomaterials before allowing any further commercial sales.
• Ensure that food and agricultural manufacturers take seriously public concerns about nanofoods. Contact the manufacturers of foods you eat often and ask them about what steps they are taking to keep unsafe, untested nanomaterials out of the food they sell.
• Insist that governments and industry take seriously the risks of occupational exposure to nanomaterials for food and agricultural workers. If you are concerned about nano-exposure in your work place, talk with your colleagues or your union representative about opportunities for collective action to secure a safe work place.
• Contact civil society organizations you think may be interested in taking action to ensure precautionary management of the use of nanotechnology in fod and agriculture applications. Find out what environment, public health, farmers and civil liberties organizations in your neighborhood are doing to work towards alternative food systems that deliver positive environmental and social
outcomes. Visit our website to learn more about nanotechnology or to support our work for safe food, and a just, resilient and sustainable food system.
Friends of the Earth-United States
In the past three decades the number of food products available to the American public has grown immensely. While our modern food system has brought about an ever-increasing variety of “food” options for consumers to purchase, this increased variety has also delivered the burden of potentially harmful ingredients—most recently, nanomaterials. Nanomaterials are produced by way of nanotechnology and are now found in a broad range of products. According to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, foods containing nanomaterials are rapidly entering the market at a rate of three to four per week.
In 2008, Friends of the Earth released a groundbreaking report on the use of nanomaterials in food and agriculture, “Out of the laboratory and onto our
plates: Nanotechnology in food and agriculture.” Six years later, the U.S. government has made little progress in protecting the public from these potentially hazardous food ingredients, despite the fact that the number of “nanofoods” on the market has grown more than tenfold in six years. Due to a lack of required labeling and disclosure, the number of undisclosed nanomaterials in food is likely much greater. Simultaneously, an increasingly large body of peer-reviewed evidence indicates some nanomaterials, including those used in our food system, may harm human health and the environment.
This rapid introduction of nanomaterials into our food system has been driven by billions of dollars of investment by roughly 200 transnational food companies in nanofood and nanopackaging, with the nanofoods market expected to grow to US$20.4 billion by 2020. Unfortunately, many food items that Americans eat on a daily basis contain nanomaterial ingredients. These include familiar products such as processed and cream cheeses, cookies, doughnuts, coffee creamer, chocolate syrup and other chocolate products, pudding, mayonnaise, mashed potatoes, milk, soy, almond, and rice beverages, mints, gum, popcorn, salad dressing and oils, yogurt, cereal, candy, crackers, pasta, and sports drinks. There is also mounting evidence that suggests nanomaterials are being used to package and preserve fresh fruit and vegetable products, a dangerous trend that could threaten the integrity of staple healthy foods. These products are manufactured and sold by major food companies including Kraft, General Mills, Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Unilever, Smucker’s and Albertsons. Due to a lack of required labeling and disclosure, the number of undisclosed nanomaterials in food is likely much greater. This report will examine the rapid increase in nanomaterials entering our food system since the release of our 2008 report, including the development of new food and food-contact nano-products. It will provide a review of trends in nanotechnology and of the current literature relating to the potential environmental, health and safety impacts associated with nanotechnology and a summary of United States regulatory responses to date. Six years ago, inaction on this issue was based on a perceived lack of data. Inaction is still the norm, but the lack of data is no longer an excuse that regulators and industry can use. While it is certainly true that environmental, health and safety research is not keeping with the pace of commercialization, the volume of information and studies now available is enormous. Governments, scientists and scientific bodies such as the U.S. National Research Council have presented more than sufficient evidence to justify a proactive regulatory regime and a properly funded research program that will effectively target those areas of greatest environmental and health concern. A growing number of civil society organizations worldwide have called for precautionary management of nanotechnology, culminating in the release of “Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials.”1 More than 70 groups from six continents have endorsed this document. Unfortunately, there is little sign of willingness by government to provide the levels of funding required to support such work or to adopt appropriate regulation. The notion of precaution has been replaced with an attitude that it is the obligation of industry to determine whether their products are safe and that regulators will only act when harm is shown. While France, Belgium and Denmark have implemented a
mandatory register for nanomaterials, and the EU is in the process of implementing a nanofood labeling regime, which begins this year, U.S. consumers remain in the dark. This situation will need to change if we are to
protect consumers and our environment.
What is nanotechnology?
The term “nanotechnology” does not describe a singular technology, but rather encompasses a range of technologies that operate at the scale of the building blocks of biological and manufactured materials — the “nanoscale.”
There is still no internationally accepted set of definitions and measurement systems for nanotechnology, although work towards these has begun.
However, the term “nanotechnology” is now generally understood to encompass both nanoscience and the broad range of technologies that operate at the nanoscale.
• Nanoscience: The study of phenomena and materials at the atomic, molecular and macromolecular scales, where properties differ significantly from those at the larger scale. • Nanotechnology: design, characterization, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size at the
• Nanomaterials: particles, nanotubes, nanowires, quantum dots, fullerenes (buckyballs) etc. To put the nanoscale in context: a strand of DNA is 2.5 nm wide, a red blood cell 7,000 nm and a human hair is 80,000 nm wide. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. One way to understand how incredibly tiny these particles are is to consider a tennis ball in comparison with planet Earth. On scale, a tennis ball is the same size in relation to Earth as a nanoparticle is to a tennis ball.
Definition of nanomaterials for health and safety assessment
It should be noted that there exists an emerging trend to define nanotechnology as only applying to materials, structures and systems that measure no more than 100 nm in size. This distinction is quite artificial, especially from the viewpoint of biological interactions. The definition of nanomaterials is still in flux: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration uses a definition of 1-1,000 nm for drugs and requests information for ingredients less than 1,000 nm in size for other products it regulates. The European Medicines Agency also defines nanotechnology in a size range of less than 1,000 nm across. Many small particles, which measure more than 100 nm present a similar suite of physiological and anatomical behaviors, for example greater reactivity, bioactivity and bioavailability.2 When considering the health and environmental implications of nanoparticles, their size range must be more broadly defined. It is essential to also consider the hazards associated with sub-micron (100-1,000 nm) particles, and microparticles (greater than 1,000nm).[F6] In a 2010 report, the UK’s House of Lords Science and Technology Committee recommended that any definition of a nanomaterial must be based on evidence for behavior that is different from that seen in the bulk, rather than some arbitrary size such as 100 nm[F7].3 The authors of a review of the nanotoxicological implications of nanomedicines suggest that: “In practice, the useful range of nanomedicines more normally falls within the range of 5-250 nm as these tend to have a similar range of properties based on physiological and anatomical consequences.”4 Researchers investigating the biological effects of nanoparticles have also defined their relevant size range to be up to a few hundred nanometres.5 Still other researchers publishing in the drug delivery6 and food7,8 literature have argued that a useful size definition for nanomaterials used in these fields is 1-1,000nm. The problematic nature of the arbitrary 100 nm ceiling on what is considered to be a nanoparticle or nanomaterial for the purposes of future health and safety assessments is underscored by studies showing that small particles outside this size range can pose greater health hazards than particles within it. Wang et al conducted an in vivo study in which 20 nm and 120 nm particles of zinc oxide powder were fed to mice.9 Both nanoparticles resulted in organ damage and thickening of the test animals’ blood, but it appeared that the larger nanoparticles actually resulted in greater liver damage. In another in vivo experiment, mice were fed high doses of 58 nm and 1,058 nm zinc powder. The microparticle zinc caused more severe liver damage, while the nanoparticle zinc caused anaemia and more severe kidney damage.10 For the purpose of this report we use the term “nano” to include particles up to 1,000 nm in size, due to the evidence of nano-specific problems associated with particles up to this size range. We urge regulators to also adopt this definition to
assess and manage the health and environmental hazards of nanoparticles. The health and environmental hazards of nanoparticles should be based on physiological and anatomical behaviors of small particles, rather than arbitrary size distinctions.
Manufactured vs. incidental nanoparticles
Manufactured nanoparticles are those which are deliberately produced, in contrast to nanoparticles that “exist in nature,” or are by-products of other
human activities. Manufactured nanomaterials include nanoparticles (e.g. metal oxides), and also nanostructures such as nanotubes, nanowires, quantum dots, dendrimers and carbon fullerenes (buckyballs), among others. “Incidental” nanoparticles (also called ultrafine particles in the study of air pollution and its epidemiology) are a by-product of forest fires, volcanoes, vehicle
combustion and high-temperature industrial processes including combustion, welding, and grinding.11 Much of the discussion about the health and environmental implications of nanoparticles is focused on manufactured nanoparticles. However, many of the safety and regulatory issues relating to manufactured nanoparticles are also relevant to incidentally produced nanoparticles. For example, we know that exposure to large levels of incidental nanoparticles in urban air pollution causes increased incidence of disease and even death among vulnerable sections of the population.12 It is important to ensure that workers, the public and environmental systems are protected from unsafe exposure to and production of incidental nanoparticles. Nanomaterials are already used widely for their novel properties At the nanoscale, the physical, chemical and optical properties of familiar substances differ from those of
the substances in larger particle form. For example, in larger particle form zinc oxide is white and opaque; as a nanoparticle zinc oxide is transparent,
enabling it to be used to provide UV protection in products such as transparent cling wrap packaging. In nanoparticle form, the antimicrobial properties of
silver are far greater, a property which has encouraged manufacturers to use it in chopping boards, refrigerators, food storage containers and food packaging.
Altered properties of nanoparticles are a result of both the influence of “quantum mechanics” and the much greater relative surface area that nanomaterials have compared with larger particles. The large surface area of nanomaterials results in their increased chemical reactivity and biological activity[F8],13 making them attractive for use in food fortification or as antimicrobials in food packaging. However, the altered properties of nanomaterials, especially their high chemical reactivity and greater capacity to penetrate biological membranes, also present serious new toxicity risks.14 Nanomaterials are ‘first generation’ products of nanotechnology and have been the first nanoproducts to enter wide-scale commercial use. They are used in hundreds of products that are already available on supermarket shelves, including transparent sunscreens, light-diffracting cosmetics, penetration enhanced moisturisers, stain, moisture and odor repellent fabrics, long lasting paints and furniture varnishes, anti-bacterial household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and air conditioners, and sporting equipment.15 In coming years and decades, “next generation nanotechnology” is forecast to bring more complex nanodevices, nanosystems and nanomachines.16 Nanobiotechnology may be used to manipulate the genetics of human, animals and agricultural plants at the atomic scale, and to incorporate synthetic materials into biological organisms and biological materials into synthetic structures.17
Why are food and agriculture companies interested in nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology has existing and potential applications in all aspects of agriculture, food processing, food packaging and even farm and food monitoring. These include:
• Methods to enable foods such as soft drinks, ice cream, chocolate or chips
to be marketed as “health” foods[F9] by reducing fat, carbohydrate or calorie
content or by increasing protein, fiber or vitamin content;
• Production of stronger flavorings, colorings, nutritional additives and processing aids to increase the pace of manufacturing and to lower costs of ingredients and processing;
• Development of foods capable of changing their color, flavor or nutritional
properties according to a person’s dietary needs, allergies or taste
• Packaging to increase food shelf life by detecting spoilage, bacteria, or the loss
of food nutrient, and to release antimicrobials, flavors, colors or nutritional
supplements in response; • Reformulation of on-farm inputs to produce more potent fertilizers, plant growth treatments and pesticides that respond to specific conditions or targets.
Edible food coatings
Manipulation of materials at the nanoscale can allow food scientists to create “edible nanolaminate films” which can be used as barrier layers to prolong shelf life. These films can include lipids or clays as moisture barriers, biopolymers such as carbohydrates as oxygen and carbon dioxide barriers, or nanoparticulates and emulsified nanodroplets, which could contain active ingredients to improve taste, texture or appearance. Antibacterial substances can also be directly integrated into the edible coating, for instance for meat packaging.18 Edible coatings containing engineered nanomaterials are reportedly already being used on fruit and vegetables in markets in the U.S. and Canada in order to extend shelf life. Tests conducted in Central and South American farms and packing stations found a number of fruits with a nano coating, including apples, pears, peppers, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables delivered to the U.S. and Canada.19
The complexity involved in detecting nanomaterials in our food
The detection of nanomaterials is a complex matter requiring state-of-the-art as well as experimental devices and techniques, especially when attempting
to quantify or characterize nanomaterials in a complex matrix such as food. The lack of standards and internationally recognized measurement methods, coupled with the shrouding of the nanotechnology industry and reinforced by the lack of
regulation in this area, have created significant challenges to simply understanding where nanomaterials are being used and the reality of their interactions with the public and our environment.
2. HEALTH CONCERNS: WHY NANOMATERIALS AND NANOFOODS POSE NEW RISKS
Nanomaterials have unique properties that offer many new opportunities for food industry applications, such as potent nutritional additives, stronger
flavorings and colorings, or antibacterial ingredients for food packaging. However, the same properties exhibited at the nanoscale that make these materials attractive for use in the food industry may also result in greater toxicity for humans and the environment.
Nanoparticles pose new risks because:
• They can be more chemically reactive and more bioactive than larger particles of the same chemicals.
• Due to their very small size, nanoparticles also have much greater access to our bodies, so they are more likely than larger particles to enter cells, tissues and organs.
• Greater bioavailability and greater bioactivity may introduce new toxicity risks.[F10]
• They can compromise our immune system response.
• They may have long-term pathological effects. Nanoparticles of silver, titanium dioxide, zinc and zinc oxide, materials now used in nutritional supplements, food packaging and food contact materials, have been found to be highly toxic to
cells in test tube and animal studies. Preliminary environmental studies also suggest that these substances may be toxic to ecologically important
species such as water fleas. Yet there is still no nanotechnology-specific regulation or safety assessment required before manufactured nanomaterials can be used in food, food packaging, or agricultural products. Before the industrial revolution humans faced very limited exposure to insoluble nanoparticles.
Consequently, our bodies have not developed effective clearing mechanisms, as we have with larger particles, to remove them from our lungs, gastro-intestinal tract, tissues and organs[F11],. Nanoparticles also show greater adhesion to biological surfaces within our bodies (for example, the walls of our gastrointestinal tract), which can increase rates of uptake[F12].20 In the July 19, 2012, report, “Effects of Silver Nanoparticles on the Liver and Hepatocytes in vitro,” published in Toxicological Sciences, author Birgit Gaiser, Ph.D., states, At the moment, there is not much information available on the topic of ingested nanoparticles and human health. There is evidence that a small percentage of these particles or particle components [of nano titanium dioxide or nano silver]…can move on from the intestinal tract into the blood, and reach other organs[F13]. This is why we believe it is important to assess the risk of even small amounts of particles in the human body.21 In 2009, a team led by Roel Schins at the Environmental Health Research Institute in Düsseldorf, Germany, published research suggesting that some nanoparticles, including silica and titanium dioxide, can induce DNA damage in human intestinal cells.22 Specific health concerns with nanomaterials in food and food contact materials
Uses: 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. Health concerns: Nanosilica has been found in the livers of rats and mice after oral administration. In vitro studies show a significant percentage of the nanosilica remains undissolved and that “the presence of undissolved nanosilica particles in the gut in vivo is considered likely.”23,24 Animal studies have shown placental transfer and fetal uptake of silica. Scientists have warned that the enhanced sensitivity of the foetus may mean that even low doses of nanomaterials may cause adverse effects.25
Uses: In the Woodrow Wilson inventory of nano products, silver is the most common nanomaterial mentioned in product descriptions.26 A recent court case in the United States found that the use of nanosilver was “ubiquitous” and that there was no way for consumers to avoid exposure.27 Food and food contact products identified as containing nanosilver include baby bottles, food containers, packaging, cutting boards, salad bowls, appliances, cutlery, ice trays, filtration devices and collapsible coolers. In agriculture it is used in poultry production and agricultural and aquacultural disinfectants.28 Health concerns: There is mounting evidence that nanosilver may have greater toxic effects when compared with bulk silver. Nano-silver can better penetrate biological barriers and attach itself to the outside of cells.29 Nanoscale silver can also enter the bloodstream and reach all organs of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, bone marrow and nervous tissue. Animal studies have shown placental transfer and fetal uptake of nanosilver,30 which is especially disturbing considering a recent study that found exposure to nano-silver caused zebra fish embryos to develop with head abnormalities and no eyes. Zebra fish have been widely used as a model organism for the study of embryological development in other vertebrates including humans.31 Health experts have also raised concerns that the widespread use of nano-silver in consumer products will further increase the problem of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.32
Uses: A whitener and brightener in a range of food products Health concerns: The European Chemicals Agency is currently reviewing the safety of titanium dioxide (including the nano form) because of concerns it may be harmful to the environment and human health.33 In contrast to bulk particles of titanium dioxide, nanoscale titanium dioxide is biologically very active. Studies show that titanium dioxide can damage DNA,34 disrupt the function of cells, interfere with the defence activities of immune cells and, by adsorbing fragments of bacteria and “smuggling” them across the gastrointestinal tract, can provoke inflammation.35,36,37,38,39,40 A single high oral dose of titanium dioxide nanoparticles was found to cause significant lesions in the kidneys and livers of female mice.41 In a 2010 study the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the German Federal Environment Agency concluded that nanoscale titanium dioxide is a possible carcinogen if inhaled[F14].42 Nano titanium dioxide is highly mobile in the body and has been detected in both humans and animals in the blood, liver and spleen.43 A study using pregnant mice found that nanoparticles of titanium dioxide were transferred in utero to their offspring. This resulted in brain damage, nerve system damage and reduced sperm production in male offspring.44 A human exposure analysis of titanium dioxide through foods identified children in the 2.5 to 4.5 year age range as having the highest exposures because the titanium dioxide content of sweets is higher than any other food products. It also calculated that a typical exposure for a U.S. adult may be of the order of 1 mg of titanium per kilogram of body weight per day.45 Many of the products Friends of the Earth found to contain nanomaterials specifically contained nano titanium dioxide. In laboratory studies, nanoparticles of titanium dioxide have been found to be immunologically active, causing a reaction from the body’s defensive system. Ashwood et al show that these particles may play an important role in the initiation or exacerbation of gastrointestinal inflammation, by adsorbing bacterial fragments and then carrying them across the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, in 2013, a team led by Roel Schins at the Environmental Health Research Institute in Düsseldorf, Germany, published research suggesting that some nanoparticles, including silica and titanium dioxide, can induce DNA damage in human intestinal cells.
Zinc oxide (ZnO)
Uses: Surface coatings
Health Concerns: Nanoscale zinc oxide is toxic when ingested and has been found to cause lesions in the liver, pancreas, heart and stomach.46 A recent review of the safety of nano zinc oxide by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety stated that “clear positive toxic responses in some of these tests clearly indicate a potential for risk to humans.”47 Inhalation exposure of nano zinc oxide induces lung inflammation, leading the SCCS to conclude that “the use of ZnO (zinc oxide) nanoparticles in spray products cannot be considered safe.”48
Uses: dietary supplements49
Health Concerns: The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment compared the acute toxicity of micro-and nanoscale copper. No adverse effects
were observed with microscale copper; however, nanoscale copper showed adverse effects on the kidney, spleen and liver of mice.50
Uses: While there are no confirmed commercial food and food contact products containing carbon nanotubes, food packaging and food sensors containing carbon nanotubes have been developed.51 Health Concerns: The Australian National Industrial Chemical Notification and Assessment Scheme and
Safe Work Australia, which reviewed the safety of carbon nanotubes, found that multi-walled carbon nanotubes “have been shown to induce mesothelioma in rodents.”52
Nano supplements could cause health problems [F15]
The head of the nanotechnology research group at the United Kingdom’s Central Science Laboratory warns of unpredictable effects of nanoparticles and nano encapsulated additives: “They can be absorbed faster than desired or affect the absorption of other nutrients. We still know very little, if anything at all.”53
In 2009, based on the growing number of commercially available nano supplements, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ project
on emerging nanotechnologies found that in the U.S. the Food and Drug Administration had neither the regulatory power nor the scientific expertise to determine if these supplements were safe.54 Migration of nanomaterials from packaging It is possible that nanomaterials could migrate from food packaging into foods. Polymers and chemical additives in conventional food packaging, such as bisphenol A and phthalates, are known to migrate from the packaging into food products.55,56 The Institute of Food Science and Technology has expressed concern that manufactured nanomaterials are already being used in food packaging, despite migration rates and exposure risks remaining unknown.57 To date there are only a few studies that have investigated the migration of nanomaterials from food packaging into food, and the results have been inconclusive.
Nanoparticles and the link to Crohn’s disease and immune system dysfunction
It is well known that people with asthma are especially susceptible to air pollution. In effect, asthma sufferers act as the proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” alerting those around them that air pollution levels are getting dangerously high. Scientists have more recently suggested that the growing prevalence of Crohn’s disease — a damaging and chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that can lead to cancer — may be a similar warning signal in relation to microparticles in our food[F16].58 The relationship between the development of Crohn’s disease and factors such as genetic susceptibility, immune system health, psychological health and environmental factors including, exposure and physiological response to nano or microparticles, remains poorly understood. However, data indicate that the inflammation associated with Crohn’s may be explained in part by an abnormal or exaggerated response to the individual’s intestinal bacteria. Numerous in vivo experiments using rats and mice have demonstrated gastrointestinal uptake of nanoparticles.59,60,61,62,63 and small microparticles.64,65,66 Pathological examination of human tissues suggests ingestion and translocation of microparticles up to 20 µm in size.67,68 The absorption rate of substances via the gastrointestinal tract appears to depend on properties such as size and surface structure.[F17] In one study looking at rats, the smaller the nanoparticles the higher the uptake via the digestive tract.69 In another study mice were fed 4 nm gold particles. These were later detected in the liver, kidney, spleen, lung and brain. Larger particles (58 nm) remained in the gastrointestinal tract.70 —Studies have shown that nanomaterials may affect the human intestine. When human colon cells were treated with nano-sized polystyrene, which is commonly used in food packaging, the cells became more permeable to iron.71 Powell et al have observed that the daily exposure of people in the Western world to sub-micrometer-sized mineral particles has resulted in “pigmented cells” loaded with these particles in parts of the intestinal tract. The particles have been observed to be composed of aluminosilicates, titanium dioxide and a small percentage of non-aluminum-containing silicates such as silica (SiO2) and magnesium trisilicate (talc).[F18]72 —–Preliminary evidence suggests that existing levels of nanoparticles up to a few hundred nanometers in size in processed food may be associated with rising levels of immune system dysfunction and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, including Crohn’s disease.73,74,75,76 Individuals with Crohn’s disease or colon cancer have been found with nanomaterials in their intestinal tissue.77 The reasons for the disproportionate incidence of Crohn’s disease in the global north are still disputed, but it is possible that the high consumption of industrially processed foods plays a role.
Occupational health and safety concerns
In the food sector, workers may come into contact with nanomaterials during production, packaging, transport and waste disposal of food and agrochemicals.
78 To date, there is very little data relating to the exposure of workers to nanomaterials. –A number of nanomaterials used in the food industry, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, have been shown to be harmful when inhaled, raising OHS concerns for workers handling these materials.79 However, in the absence of a mandatory register and product labeling, many workers may be unaware that they are handling nanomaterials and of the need to use protective equipment. Studies have also shown that nanomaterials can enter the bloodstream via the lungs, raising major OHS concerns.80 –Based on a 2009 review of carbon nanotubes by Safe Work Australia and NICNAS, carbon nanotubes were declared a hazardous chemical for purposes of health and safety laws.81 This ruling does not prohibit their use, but it means that carbon nanotubes used in the workplace must be accompanied by a data safety sheet.
NANOFOODS ON THE MARKET
Our knowledge of the extent to which nanomaterials are used in food products is limited. Food manufacturers are not required to disclose details about
their use of nanomaterials; nor is this information collected by the Food and Drug Administration. This, coupled with the lack of labeling laws, means
the public is left to guess which products contain nanomaterials. The absence of transparency creates a chasm of knowledge not just for the public, but also for government regulators and even some food producers.82 Nevertheless, we do know that major food companies are involved in nanotechnology research
and development; at least 200 transnational food companies are currently investing in nanotech and are on their way to commercializing products.83 The nanofoods market is expected to grow to US$20.4 billion in 2020.84 Table 1 shows a sample of food companies engaged in nanotechnology research and development.