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Lack of regulations for nanomaterials raises concerns over their usage in packaging

Lack of regulations for nanomaterials raises concerns over their usage in packaging

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Lack Of Regulations For Nanomaterials Raises Concerns Over Their Usage In Packaging

Lack of regulations for nanomaterials raises concerns over their usage in packaging

 

Nanotechnology, the design and manipulation of materials thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair, has been acclaimed as a way to make strong, lightweight materials, better cosmetics and even tastier food. Over 600 products are known to contain nanomaterials, including sunscreens, cosmetics, food additives, paints, fuel additives, lubricants and medical implants. Nanotechnology offers tremendous opportunities for innovative developments in food packaging that can benefit both consumers and industry. With a rampant market expansion, there is the potential for nanoparticles to enter the environment through many routes and in greater quantities, which has caused some concern. The potential health and environmental impacts of nanomaterials lags significantly behind the pace of innovation. It has recently been found out that the nanomaterials pose some problems in packaging by Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Nanotechnology cited in the report includes the use of a nanoscale antimicrobial agent affixed to the food contact surface of a plastic packaging film, as a way to prevent contamination of the packaging itself, and the use nanoscale clay "platelets" that give a plastic carbonated-beverage bottle clarity, barrier properties, and shelf life similar to those of glass, while it remains lighter in weight and less likely to break. These packaging innovations should ensure that the food-packaging industry, through working closely with government, understands the regulatory framework currently in place along with its many requirements for nano materials.
National Research Council, Washington, DC, finds serious weaknesses in government's plan for research on potential health, environmental risks posed by exposure to nanomaterials. In packaging, nanoscale engineering, which manipulates materials at molecular and atomic level to create structures with unique, useful properties, could increase strength without increasing weight or enhance barrier properties. The Committee believes that the research plan developed by National Nanotechnolgy Initiative needs to include more comprehensive evaluation of how nanomaterials are absorbed, metabolized by the body as well as their toxicity at realistic exposure levels. Current strategy also lacks accountability, adequate funding, scope, needs to incorporate research from academia, industry, consumer/environmental groups, other stakeholders along with federal research. Other research needs include risk management to manage accidents and spills or mitigate exposure through consumer products. More testing and regulation of nanomaterials used in an increasingly number of everyday products is urgently needed.
After analysis of the potential health and environmental impacts which flow from the properties of nanomaterials, it was concluded that there is a plausible case for concern about some, but not all classes of nanomaterials, as per experts in a British government-funded report. In particular the report cited buckyballs that may have potential uses ranging from novel drug-delivery system to fuel cells, as well as carbon nanotubes and nanosilver. Of particular concern is the increasing use of nanosilver and carbon nanotubes. Nanosilver is an antibacterial agent incorporated into clothing. Carbon nanotubes are among the least biodegradable of man-made products and are produced in a variety of different forms with different functions, for example, to target the delivery of drugs in the body or for use in computer components. Some laboratory tests have shown that aquatic organisms can ingest nanomaterials, and nanosilver has been shown to be toxic to bacteria and fish with implications for wider ecosystem functioning and water quality. Other studies suggest that nanoparticles could cross the blood/brain barrier. In addition, there is evidence that carbon nanotubes could act the same way as asbestos fibres and inflammatory responses to carbon nanotubes have been observed in the lungs of rats and mice. Recent studies have found buckyballs (buckministerfullerenes) may threaten health by building up fat and have linked carbon nanotubes to potential lung cancer risk. Though scientists have started to assess the impact such tiny objects might have, and the British report warned existing regulations may not be able to keep up with technology. More testing is urgently needed and existing regulations need to be amended to control the development of nanomaterials, given the state of uncertainty about their long-term effects on human health and the environment.
There are no specific regulations covering nanotechnologies in the European Union and the use and disposal of nanomaterials is governed by a number of separate regulations including REACH1, a European Community regulation on the safe use of chemicals. Changes to REACH have been recommended to specifically incorporate nanomaterials, including suitable testing protocols.

 
 
 
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