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FDA proposes new rules for nanotechnology

FDA proposes new rules for nanotechnology

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With the use of nanotechnology expanding and evolving, regulators say more tests are required to ensure safety.

Nanotechnology is already being used in a range of products from sunscreens to clothing. But the safety of these tiny engineered particles has been overlooked, until now.

On Friday, FDA issued draft guidelines for food and cosmetics companies that want to use nanoparticles, which are measured in billionths of a meter, in their products. Under the guidelines, FDA will require food companies to provide more data to confirm the safety of packaging that uses nanotechnology. FDA also drafted suggestions for the use of such materials in cosmetics.

Reuters reports:

Nanoparticles may be able to penetrate the skin, or move between organs, with unknown health benefits.

"Understanding nanotechnology remains a top priority," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement. "FDA is strengthening the scientific tools and methods for evaluating food products, cosmetics, drugs and medical devices."

When companies started using nanoparticles in their packaging material, they were able to consider them as "generally recognized as safe," because nanotechnology manipulates materials that are already safe, just on a very small scale.

But, FDA said, "because materials in the nanoscale dimension may have different chemical, physical or biological properties from their larger components," the technology should be monitored.

That's especially important because the use of nanotechnology is growing and scientists believe it could one day be used in medicine.

"This is an emerging, evolving technology and we're trying to get ahead of the curb to ensure the ingredients and substances are safe," Dennis Keefe, director of FDA's office of food additive safety told AP.

The FDA will have a 90-day comment period on the proposals.

FDA says nanotech may need extra testing  [Reuters], FDA proposes rules for nanotechnology in food  [AP]

Photo via FDA

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Amy Kraft

Weekend Editor

Contributing Editor Amy Kraft is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for New Scientist and DNAinfo and has produced podcasts for Scientific American's 60-Second-Science. She holds degrees from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure