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Posted: Apr 05, 2006

Government officials in Germany recall nanotech product

(Nanowerk News) The Washington Post today reports that Government officials in Germany have issued what appears to be the first health-related recall of a nanotechnology product (see article).
The article appears to be based on a news release of March 31, 2006 by the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR) in Berlin. Here is the full text of this release:
Exercise caution when using "nano-sealing sprays" containing a propellant!
When used in confined spaces, they can cause respiratory problems.
Sealing sprays for glass and ceramics containing moisture-repellant nano particles and a propellant should not be used in confined spaces. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has good reason for pointing this out. In a short space of time the poison control and treatment centres of the federal states have reported 39 cases involving serious health disorders following the use of household products of this kind. All the people involved complained of respiratory distress. In six cases pulmonary oedemas were diagnosed which had to be treated in hospital.
Sealing sprays with nano particles for ceramic and glass surfaces are a new type of household chemical. In the bathroom and toilet they are said to make surfaces water and dirt-repellent. Liquids are said to trickle off without leaving behind any rings or lime spots. This product is sold in pump bottles and aerosol cans.
Some users suffered severe health disorders after using aerosol cans. It seems they had inhaled components of the spray which had remained in the ambient air as fine particles of the aerosol. The particles from the spray may have disrupted the function of the alveolar and bronchial tissue in the lungs and, by extension, oxygen and moisture exchange. This led to respiratory distress and, in severe cases, to accumulation of water in the lungs (pulmonary oedemas).
No such incidents have been reported in conjunction with products applied to surfaces using pump bottles.
The competent regional authorities and the poison control and treatment centres of the federal states have since issued warnings about two products which were sold in Penny stores according to the manufacturers (e.g. www.giz-nord.de/php/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1). The incidents have also been recorded in the European rapid alert system for non-food products RAPEX. The distributors have launched a recall and advised against using the sprays.
As the exact cause of the health disorders has still to be established, BfR advises all consumers, who have already purchased nano-sealing sprays on a propellant base, not to use them in confined spaces.
No information is available as to whether other products with nano-technological components and a propellant (e.g. shoe care products, impregnating agents, moisture blockers, etc.) are also on the market which may constitute a hazard. If respiratory disorders should occur after using sprays of this kind, the consumers affected should immediately contact a doctor or a poison control and treatment centre. It is important to bear in mind that in order to fully understand the situation they need to see the product used!
Because of these recent incidents BfR points out that, in accordance with the Chemicals Act, doctors in Germany are bound to notify the BfR Poison and Product Documentation Centre of any health impairments in conjunction with chemical products.
BfR is working flat out to establish the cause of the occurrence of these recent health disorders. There are plans for scientific discussions.
Source: BfR
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