Nanos Are Not No-Nos


There has been a lot of media hype surrounding the use of nano-particles in sunscreens and skin care products.

Consumers have been totally mislead into believing that nano-particles are dangerous and toxic if applied to the skin. This is simply not the case – it is the particle that is nano-phased that may be dangerous and NOT the fact that is nano-phased in the first place! Nano-technology has revolutionised the medical and cosmetic industry and should not be feared.

A nano-particle is defined as a particle smaller in diameter than 100 nanometers. One nanometer represents one billionth of a meter. Nano-technology does not define the chemical characteristics of the particle. It merely defines its size. For example, nano particles of a toxic chemical such as arsenic would be fatal if inhaled or applied topically in a large enough dose. Conversely, nano- particles delivered by a nebuliser of Ventolin would be life -saving to an asthmatic.

In my opinion as a scientist, there is no problem in applying nano-particles of zinc oxide in sunblock as zinc oxide is part of normal body chemistry and considered non toxic. I would not, however apply nano-particles of titanium dioxide as it has been reported to induce a free radical response in living cells.

It is essential to question the agenda of those who instil fear into consumers regarding nano-technology. Nano-technology is to be embraced as often the ingredient or drug that has been nano-phased is vital for the well being of the recipient.