Toxic Nanoparticles May Already Be In Human Food Supply [Study]

Elaine Radford

Toxic nanoparticles like the silver nanoparticles used as pesticides are probably already in the human food supply. In the cautious manner of scientists everywhere, a University of Missouri research team said their new study showed that the nanoparticles "might" be entering our food.

But it sure looks like there's a large probability that the toxic nanoparticles are here.

Silver nanoparticles are already being used as a pesticide. Food science professor Mengshi Lin and his colleagues designed tests to see if those particles contaminated pears even if the fruit was repeatedly washed and rinsed.

The news wasn't good.

Four days after the cleaning, they could still find silver nanoparticles on the skin of the pears.

And even if you had time to peel pears before you ate them, you might still be at risk. Smaller nanoparticles were actually able to penetrate the skin to contaminate the pulp.

With nanoparticles, the smaller particles are the most dangerous because they can move around the body. The University of Missouri statement said:

"When ingested, nanoparticles pass into the blood and lymph system, circulate through the body and reach potentially sensitive sites such as the spleen, brain, liver and heart."

Lin added that there are already 1,000 nanotechnology-based products on the market. The tiny particles can be used for water treatment, cosmetics, or food packaging -- not just pesticides.

In February, an advocacy group called As You Sow claimed that they had found titanium dioxide nanoparticles in the white powdered sugar used by Dunkin' Donuts. Those nanoparticles wouldn't have been used as a pesticide.

Instead, they might have been placed in the sugar by a supplier to make it look whiter.

But the new study is more disturbing, because it hints that nanoparticles can find their way into food even if farmers make an effort to clean them off.

The team's goal is to identify the risk represented by toxic nanoparticles. They want to evaluate the possible threat to the human food supply as soon as possible.

[photo by University of Missouri]