Nanoparticles Use Program

Overview

Nanoparticles are ultrafine particles measuring between 1-100 nanometers (nm) in one dimension. In addition to the novel size of nanoparticles or structures, uses are also derived from the composition of the nanoparticles, which can be chemical or biological.  Concerns with safety regarding the use of nanotechnology have arisen primarily from the recognition of several unique attributes of nanoparticles:  

•       The ultra-small particle size permits the particles to be carried deeply into tissues.  Particles may be deeply respired into the lungs, may pass through the blood-brain barrier; or translocate between organs. 

•       The molecular structure of nanoparticles and the relatively greater surface area confer on these particles different chemical and biological reactivities than larger structures made from the same elements or molecules. 

Although insufficient information exists to predict the health hazard posed by the exposure to nanoparticles, and such effects will vary depending on the composition of the nanoparticles, current research indicates that exposure via inhalation and skin contact can result in these particles entering the body.  Results from human and animal studies show inhaled nanoparticles can deposit in the respiratory tract.  Animal studies also show nanoparticles can enter the bloodstream and translocate to other organs.  Nanoparticles have the greatest potential to enter the body if they become airborne or come into contact with the skin, eyes or mucous membranes.  Some evidence suggests that nanoparticles may be more toxic to tissues than larger molecular structures.  Exposure to nanoparticles carrying genetic material may result in genetic or immunologic effects.  Exposure to nanoparticles carrying infectious agents may cause infectious diseases.