Report suggests more rigorous assessment of nanosilver use

Report suggests more rigorous assessment of nanosilver use
These hand sanitizers and many other consumer products on the market contain nanosilver.

( -- A new report published in the journal Science suggests the risks to the environment of nanosilver used in consumer goods should be examined more stringently.

Nanosilver is the most commonly used nanoparticle found in consumer goods, and is being used as an anti-odor, antibacterial agent in fabrics, deodorants, toothpastes, and even cement. It is also found in a wide range of other applications, including paints, medical devices, bandages, food containers, and electronics equipment and washing machines.

Silver is widely used because it is believed to be harmless to humans except in high concentrations, but it is known to be toxic to fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms, and little is known about its effects on wastewater systems or the wider environment. Previous studies in Europe have shown that around 15 percent of the total volume of silver in wastewater is biocidal nanosilver originating in consumer goods and medicinal uses.

Author of the report, Dr. Bernd Nowack of the Swiss Federal Laboratory for Materials Science, Empa, said that while silver has long been known to be a biocide, nanosilver seems to have unique properties because of the (less than 100 billionths of a meter) size of the particles. He said this suggests there should be more rigorous assessments of the risks to humans and the environment.

Dr. Nowack said one of the risks arises because some of the wastewater and sludge from ends up on farms in fertilizers, and could therefore enter the food chain. Another risk is that nanosilver could have a detrimental effect on the nitrifying bacteria that are vital to the effluent treatment processes, and could prevent treatment plants from working properly.

Nowack's report said in earlier studies some nanosilver had been shown to bond with sulfur in to produce non-toxic silver sulfide , but it is not known how efficient sulfur is at removing biocidal silver.

In the US and many other countries manufacturers have no obligation to disclose the presence of nanoparticles in consumer goods.

Explore further

Popular nanoparticle causes toxicity in fish, study shows

More information: Nanosilver Revisited Downstream, Bernd Nowack, Science 19 November 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6007 pp. 1054-1055. DOI:10.1126/science.1198074

© 2010

Citation: Report suggests more rigorous assessment of nanosilver use (2010, November 22) retrieved 19 July 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Nov 22, 2010
here's an example of the powers that be attacking one of nature's best cures. If there's nanosilver in my food that would be great because it would spare me from the expense of having to buy some.

This article did nothing to change my mind that nano-silver is a great improvement over the previous silver containing products. No more blue people, same good health effects of using it to reduce disease caused by microbes. It's the safest anti-fungal out there. I'm not going to have some scientist telling me what is good or bad for me, more often than not they are wrong on the things that are good, and hit or miss with the things that are supposedly bad. Sounds like quackery to me.

Nov 22, 2010
The one thing you said I can agree with is that "more often than not they are wrong on the things that are good". Like nanosilver.
Do you belong to the tea party also?

Nov 23, 2010
Lovely..and the political mudslinging begins.

Nov 23, 2010
Lol...that did sound political, didn't it? My apologies to all. There are too many folks of late dismissing all science, including well-proven concepts, as quackery. It would be funny if some of them were not gaining incredible power in their corners of the world. The assumption made is that we think of silver as 'safe', therefore nanosilver MUST be safe as well and any scientific thought to the contrary is bogus and somehow it is inconvenient to the 'believers' for it to be valid. I say let's take a good hard look at it's effects before we let a genie out of the bottle that cannot be stuffed back in. Can you imagine our waste treatment plants failing? Fungus infections may well be the least of our worries then. Thank you for reining me back in, AAhhzz01.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more