“At the moment, there is not much information available on the topic of ingested nanoparticles and human health,” says postdoctoral research fellow Birgit Gaiser, Ph.D., of Heriot-Watt University in the UK. “Some nanoparticles are present in the human diet, for example titanium dioxide in food products and cosmetics, and silver, which is sold as a nutritional supplement. There is evidence that a small percentage of these particles, or particle components like silver ions which can be released in stomach acid, can move on from the intestinal tract into the blood, and reach other organs.”
FDA Doesn’t Know (or Care) if You’re Eating Nanotechnology
Would it surprise you to learn that the Food and Drug Administration—the government body charged with ensuring the safety of what is put on the market for ingestion—doesn’t really know what effects nanoparticles in our bodies might have? (It shouldn’t if you’ve been following the GMO labeling debacle.)
When asked in an email by E Magazine in what foods nanoparticles are most often found, FDA rep Sebastian Cianci responded, “FDA does not maintain a list of food products that contain nanomaterials.”
We do know, however, that some of the offenders are caramelized sugar, nutritional supplements, toothpastes, gum, candies, Pop Tarts, Nestle coffee creamers, and purified water. Products like car batteries, appliances, aluminum foil, cookware, and health and fitness items—like workout clothing (and other clothing items) treated with antimicrobial silver particles—are other examples.
Human Response not Always Known
What few tests have been conducted on the effects of nanoparticle ingestion have found inconclusive or outright negative results (despite the original “good” intention of putting nanotechnology in food, which included nutrient delivery). To the contrary, one Cornell study published in Nature has found that chickens fed nanoparticles with their feed experienced varied iron absorption (blocked or improved, depending on dosage) and intestinal villi changes. Even Dr. Gretchen Mahler, Ph.D., of the study says that “the human response, especially the more subtle effects related to chronic exposure, is not always known.”
Mahler adds that not all nanoparticles have the same effects on our bodies. “You can’t apply test results with one type of nanoparticle to all other nanoparticles—you have to test them all individually.”