An invisible killer is lurking in our consumer products, warn scientists

·2-min read

Our food, cosmetics and clothes may be filled with an invisible killer that doesn't show up in ingredients lists but may be more dangerous than COVID-19, according to new research.

A new study published the journal Nature Communications has shed light on the unseen, and often unseeable, world of nanomaterials.

An international team of researchers has developed a new method to trace these nanomaterials across the aquatic food chain, from microorganisms to the blood and tissues of fish.

"We found that that nanomaterials bind strongly to microorganisms, which are a source of food for other organisms, and this is the way they can enter our food chain," explained Dr Fazel Monikh, from the University of Eastern Finland.

"Once inside an organism, nanomaterials can change their shape and size and turn into a more dangerous material that can easily penetrate cells and spread to other organs.

"When looking at different organs of an organism, we found that nanomaterials tend to accumulate especially in the brain," Dr Monikh warned.

Nanomaterials are so small they're difficult to measure - the amount of them in any given organism can't be ascertained through their mass, which is the standard method for measuring other chemicals for regulatory purposes.

The researchers' findings emphasise the importance of assessing the risk of nanomaterials before they are introduced to consumer products in large amounts.

"It could be that you are already using nanomaterials in your food, clothes, cosmetic products, etc, but you still don't see any mention of them in the ingredient list. Why? Because they are still unregulated and because they are so small that we simply can't measure them once they're in your products," Dr Monikh added.

"People have the right to know what they are using and buying for their families. This is a global problem which needs a global solution. Many questions about nanomaterials still need to be answered.

"Are they safe for us and the environment? Where will they end up after we're done using them? How can we assess their possible risk?" Dr Monikh concluded.