Nanosilver A Threat To Soil, Water And Human Health?

Nanosilver A Threat To Soil, Water And Human Health?

Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth U.S

WASHINGTON – Responding to the growing number of products containing potentially hazardous nanosilver, Friends of the Earth Australia has prepared a detailed background paper on the potential threat of nanosilver to soil, water and human health. The paper also discusses regulatory issues surrounding the use of nanosilver and reviews the toxicological literature.

“Companies incorporating nanosilver particles into their products are exposing people and the environment to unknown threats,” said Friends of the Earth Health and Environment Campaigner Ian Illuminato.

Nanosilver is only one of many new substances developed from the science of nanotechnology, where materials are manipulated at the scale of atoms and molecules. Because of its powerful bactericidal properties, nanosilver particles are incorporated into an increasing number of consumer products such as food packaging, odor resistant textiles, household appliances and medical devices including wound dressings.

Friends of the Earth Australia’s report reveals studies that show soil, water, animals and even humans may be impacted by the introduction of nanosilver particles in the environment; this is because many environmental systems are dependent on sensitive bacterial balances. Nanosilver threatens a variety of delicate environmental systems including human symbiotic relationships with bacteria, soil nitrogen fixes and gentrification bacteria that play an important role in keeping waterways clean. Nanosilver may also compromise our ability to control harmful bacteria that could potentially develop resistance to 50 percent of currently used antibiotics.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in late 2006 that it would investigate regulating as pesticides products that contain silver nanoparticles and that make claims of antimicrobial action. However, in a wholly illogical and highly unsatisfactory loophole, the EPA decision will only apply to products whose manufacturers make claims of antimicrobial action. This means that if a manufacturer withdraws marketing claims of nanosilver’s antimicrobial activity, but changes nothing about the nanosilver component of a product, then that product will escape regulation as a pesticide.

“The government cannot continue to dilly dally around when it comes to protecting consumers and the environment from potentially toxic nanosilver,” said Illuminato. “The EPA needs to stop relying on the word of companies with regard to nanosilver product safety and immediately consider the disturbing growing body of evidence that identifies nanosilver as potential hazardous.”

Given the poorly understood toxicity risks of silver nanoparticles, the threat they pose to the public and environmental systems, and the failure of regulatory systems to manage these risks, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Australia repeat their call for an immediate moratorium on the further release, and the immediate withdrawal from the market, of products containing silver nanoparticles.


The paper is available here: