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Nanoparticles in our food — Added without public knowledge

Nanoparticles have become incredibly important in the medical field, from the use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs to specific areas of the body, to breaking up blood clots and treating cancer.

When we talk about nanoparticles, we are discussing tiny molecules that are one billionth of a foot long. They are the same size as a virus or protein. Imagine that one red blood cell is the size of a baseball stadium. A nanoparticle would be the size of a baseball, according to the blog, Fooducate.

Digital Journal writer Tim Sandle has been following the growth of nanotechnology through a number of well-written articles over the past year, and he explains the growing technology quite thoroughly.

But using nanotechnology in healing the human body, or making rigid computer chips more flexible, is one thing, perhaps, but adding nanoparticles to our food supply without telling us, testing or in-depth study is a cause for concern. Nanoparticles very quietly began making their entrance into the nation’s food supply about 10 years ago.

Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide
Nanoparticles are additives, and used primarily to make food more visually appealing, but their impact on human health is really unknown at this time. And we don’t know if what we’re eating contains nanoparticles because food manufacturers are not required to list them on their labels.

The most common nanoparticle in use today is titanium dioxide. It’s used in paint and toothpaste to make them bright and white. It is also found in chewing gums, whipped cream frosting, milkshakes, coffee creamers, and a lot more products, all for the same reason. The titanium dioxide serves no other purpose than to enhance the color and look of the product, so many health professionals and food safety experts want to know why it needs to be in our food products in the first place.

In 2012, The Environmental Magazine quoted Birgit Gaiser, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at Heriot-Watt University in the UK, who said there was not much information available on the topic of ingested nanoparticles and their impact on human health. However, Gaiser says, “Some nanoparticles are present in the human diet, such as titanium dioxide in food products and cosmetics, and silver, which is sold as a nutritional supplement.”

Gaiser added: “There is evidence that a small percentage of these particles, or particle components like silver ions which can be released in stomach acid, can move on from the intestinal tract into the blood, and reach other organs. This is why we believe it is important to assess the risk of even small amounts of particles in the human body and ensure that the types of particles present in the human diet and cosmetics, as well as the amounts ingested, can be considered safe.”

Since 2012, there have been a number of studies on nanoparticles in our foods. Most of the studies have focused on the size and shape of nanoparticles, but one study, in particular, is worth reading. Published on November 21, 2014, and under the title: “Identification of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in food products: Induce intracellular oxidative stress mediated by TNF and CYP1A genes in human lung fibroblast cells,” the paper concludes with these words: “Thus, food grade TiO2 as nano-scaled contaminants could not only be potential human health risk factors, suggesting that safety considerations with special respect to a few crucial factors such as size, and shape should be considered and regulated by food regulators.”

The FDA has classified titanium dioxide as GRAS, or “generally regarded as safe.” But food manufacturers and suppliers are introducing nanoparticles into our foods without regard for our health, putting us at risk. It is about time the public takes steps and starts demanding that studies on nanoparticles and the impact they have on human health be done before any use or regulation of these additives is allowed.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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