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Posted: June 30, 2009
Australian scientists call for control of nano-silver use
(Nanowerk News) ABC in Australia carries a report on its website that quotes Australian scientists saying that widespread use of antibacterial silver nanoparticles in consumer products should be kept in check.
"The comments come as the Friends of the Earth release a report ("Nano silver: extreme germ killer presents a growing threat to public health") that calls for a moratorium on the use of manufactured silver nanoparticles in commercial products.
Tiny silver particles in solution have long been used in wound dressings, but in recent years industry has been using nanosized silver particles in an ever-expanding range of consumer products.
Nano-silver particles have a greater biocidal effect than larger particles because they release more microbe-killing silver ions.
Nano-silver is currently being used in socks, childrens' toys, eating utensils and refrigerators, as well as cosmetics and personal care products.
But, a growing number of scientists are raising questions about the potential for nano-silver particles to present an environmental health risk.
Call for restraint
Associate Professor Tom Faunce, an expert in the medical and regulatory aspects of nanotechnology at the Australian National University in Canberra says because nano-silver is very useful in medicine, he does not support the call for a total moratorium on nano-silver.
But he thinks there does need to be some restraint on its use.
"There is accumulating evidence now that if nano-silver use is left unrestrained and it enters the waterways in large amounts, this will be dangerous to the environment," says Faunce.
He says it is well understood that silver ions can be toxic to humans at high enough levels, but regulators should be concerned now about broader toxicity impacts of nano-silver.
Faunce says, attention should be given to the impact of chronic exposure of humans and the environment to lower concentrations of nano-silver, which may have unique impacts due to its ultrasmall size.
He calls on the government to look at restricting nano-silver in specific products such as clothes and washing machines, where it is likely to end up in the sewage system and kill bacteria important to waste processing.
Toxicologist, Dr Paul Wright of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology agrees nano-silver shouldn't be used "needlessly".