Nano-revolution leaves consumers in the dark

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Care products, Nanotechnology

Although nanotechnology is now creeping into many hair and skin
care products and improving their efficacy, a new report from
Which? finds that most people have no idea of what nanotechnology
is all about.

This conclusion has been drawn from a survey published in the December edition of the UK magazine, questioning 2,091 British adults on the extent of their knowledge regarding nanotechnology. In the course of the face-to-face omnibus survey, it was discovered that six out of ten people (61 per cent) have never even heard of nanotechnology, reflecting the fact that this science is still very low key in the public eye. Of those that had heard of the technology, 36 per cent of the respondents said that they were not aware that the technology was currently being incorporated into a large and varied number of consumer products. Nanotechnology has been incorporated into products as diverse as packaging, electronic goods, clothing, supplements and foods, together with a number of personal care products. In the skin care area, nanotechnology has been used to formulate sun care products with increased efficacy, as well as being used to enhance the delivery of active ingredients in moisturisers and anti-aging creams. It has also been used in a variety of hair care products to increase functionality and efficacy. Although the applications for personal care products are almost unlimited, caution over thorough research and development has been aired by many experts who are concerned over the unknown repercussions that might surround the technology. "The benefits that nanotechnologies can offer are really exciting,"​ said Sue Davis Which? chief policy adviser. "But before the market is flooded with products, it's crucial the government addresses the lack of scientific understanding about how some nanoparticles behave and make sure that there are meaningful controls in place" ​ Likewise, Davis also draws to attention the fact that on the consumer side increased awareness of the technology also has to be addressed so as people are aware of the potential dangers involved. "Our research shows a real lack of public awareness of nanotechnologies, despite government commitments to engage the public over this new technology. "The government needs to get to grips with how this technology is being used, understand its implications and involve the public in decisions about its future direction." ​ Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating the properties of tiny particles, measuring one billionth of a metre and has a broad range of applications from computer chips to personal care. A human hair is 80,000 nanometres (nm) wide, a red blood cell 7,000 nm wide, and a water molecule 0.3 nm wide.

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