Nanoparticles Scrutinized for Health Effects

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

Author: Ann Fernholm

05/12/2008 - Windows cleaned by raindrops, white sofas immune to red wine spills, tiles protected from limescale buildup - new products created from minute substances called nanoparticles are making such domestic dreams come true.

Based on tiny particles 10,000 times thinner than a strand of hair, the products are some of the early widespread applications of nanotechnology, the science of manipulating atoms and molecules. Nanoparticles are showing up in everything from fabric coatings to socks to plush teddy bears.

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And when inhaled, nanoparticles will go deeper into the lungs than larger particles and reach more sensitive parts. Because of that, scientists are particularly concerned about nanoparticles being used in spray products.

"We have research showing that as a material shrinks in size, it becomes more harmful to the lungs. Nanoparticles tend to be more inflammatory to the lung, and it seems as if the lung has to work harder to get rid of them," said Andrew Maynard, chief science adviser at the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in Washington. The project was established in 2005 by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts to ensure that the potential benefits of nanotechnology are realized, at the same time possible risks are minimized.

Read the full article Nanoparticles Scrutinized for Health Effects on the San Francisco Chronicle's Web site

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies on

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