In a hearing held yesterday in the U.K. House of Lords, Professor Ken Donaldson
from the University of Edinburgh and Dr Qasim Chaudhry from the Food and Environment
Research Agency presented evidence to the Select Committee on Nanotechnologies
in Food. The hearing focussed specifically on nanoparticles in food. Both Donaldson
and Chaudhry are leading experts in the field of nanotechnology risk issues,
and both are members of the Safety of Nanomaterials Interdisciplinary Research
Centre (SnIRC) and have worked extensively with IOM and SAFENANO.
As part of the evidence given, several key points were raised including:
- the ability of nanoparticles to cross the gut wall and other cellular barriers;
- the potential novel toxic effects of such nanoparticles in the human body;
- the possibility that other materials in the gut (e.g. bacteria or other
contaminants) may attach to the nanoparticles and be transported across the
gut wall (the Trojan Horse Effect).
Other important concerns included the ability of nanoparticles to interfere
with cellular processes in the body e.g. oxygen metabolism, and the antimicrobial
properties of some nanoparticles which may result in further harmful effects.
It was also emphasised that research to date has primarily been investigator
driven, a consequence of the responsive funding mode adopted in the UK, and
as such has focussed primarily on inhalation and dermal exposure to nanoparticles.
This has led to a lack of research into the effects of ingestion of nanoparticles
combined with a non-generalisability of current research. A more strategic coordinated
approach, such as that recommended in the 2004 Royal Society Report, was necessary.
These major gaps in the knowledge base, specifically relating to ingestion,
was a key finding of the recent SAFENANO-led report EMERGNANO, one of the documents
discussed at the hearing.
here to watch a webcast of the full proceedings.
More background of the House of Lord's Nanotechnologies and Food Inquiry can
be found here.