LONDON, May 5 (Reuters) Scientists urged industry yesterday to disclose how it conducts safety tests for products containing nanoparticles.
The Royal Society, an academy of leading scientists, said a new inventory showed that 200 consumer products such as laptops, cosmetics and stain-resistant clothing use nanotechnology.
''We are calling for industry to put the methods they use to test the safety of products containing free nanoparticles, such as some cosmetics, into the public domain because this is one particular area where there is some uncertainty about safety,'' said Professor Ann Dowling of the Royal Society.
Nanotechnology, which involves manipulating materials and devices on an ultra-small scale, offers tremendous potential. Scientists believe the technology could lead to more powerful computers, advanced medical techniques and longer lasting, more effective medicines.
A report by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering in 2004 concluded that most nanotechnologies pose no new risks but it said there were uncertainties about the effects of free nanoparticles on health and the environment.
Free nanoparticles are not fixed or etched to a larger object but move around. The Royal Society has expressed concern that free nanoparticles could be inhaled, ingested or enter the body through the skin and damage cells.
''Nanoparticles can behave quite differently from larger materials of the same substance and it is these properties that many manufacturers seek to take advantage of,'' Dowling said.
She added that more openness between industry and scientists could lead to agreed testing methods.
Professor Anthony Seaton, an emeritus professor of environment and occupational medicine at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, said there was no special reason to suggest that products using nanotechnology would be dangerous.
But he added that industry should be much clearer about what tests have been done.
''We really would like to see much more openness from people who are putting nanomaterials into consumer products,'' he said in an interview.
Seaton also called for more research into nanotechnology.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a U.S.
based institution, has produced an inventory of more than 200 products which contain nanotechnology.
Dowling said the inventory highlights the fact that research must be kept abreast with the rapidly advancing science.
''We also need to see international agreement and cooperation to identify and carry out the research needed to underpin regulation,'' she added.
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