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11 November 2009 BBC News

Centre for Nano Safety Opens in Scotland

Nanoparticles are already used in a range of products
Nanoparticles are already used in a range of products.
Image Credit: BBC News.

A research centre focusing on potential health risks linked to particles used in products ranging from children's dummies to razor blades to sunscreen opens in Edinburgh today. Scientists are worried that not enough is known about the potential harm that could be caused by nanotechnology.

Nanomaterials a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair are being used to enhance a growing number of products. They can make tennis rackets stronger, sunscreen transparent on the skin and are even being used to give dummies antibacterial qualities.

But little is known of their potential impact on human health and the environment.

Today, the Centre for Nano Safety launches at Edinburgh Napier University, allowing scientists to find out more. The centre has attracted £1.3 million of funding and scientists have established collaborations with researchers around the world.

Professor Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser for Scotland, will launch the centre at Edinburgh Napier's Craighouse Campus. She said: "Given the widespread use of nanomaterials in a variety of everyday products, it is essential for us to fully understand them and their potential impacts.

"This centre is one of the first in the UK to bring together nano-science research across human, environment, reproductive health and microbiology to ensure the safe and sustainable use of nanotechnology."

Nanomaterials are also revolutionising cancer treatments. Research suggests they can even be guided to tumours and heated to kill cancer cells.

However, there are fears that due to the size of the tiny particles they could permeate the skin and prove toxic to humans and the wider environment.

The new centre has been set up to identify whether a variety of nanoparticles can enter the human body – as well as other species such as bacteria, insects and plants – and cause harm.

Its aim is to find out what characteristics of nanoparticles might make them toxic so the information can be used by industry to design safer products, by regulators to generate legislation to protect humans and the environment, and by consumers to make informed choices.

Source: BBC News /...

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