Consumers are still suspicious of nano cosmetics

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nanotechnology Bfr

A recent consumer survey by German risk assessor BfR has shown that
there is still significant suspicion over the use of nanotechnology
in personal care products, although its use in sunscreens and
packaging is accepted more readily.

The survey, which was conducted on the German public, found that packaging and sunscreen uses had a relatively high level of support because consumers could see more benefits and less threats in these areas. But when it came to improving the action of other, non-sunscreen cosmetics products, only 53 per cent of respondents were in favour of employing nanotechnology in an effort to improve product formulation and efficacy. The study is due to be fully published in the spring of 2008, but the preliminary findings have been divided into two parts. The first part involves a basic psychological study of 30 people, who were interviewed for their views on consumer attitudes and the image of nanotechnology amongst consumers. The second part was a quantitative survey involving 1000 people. Although nanotechnology has been incorporated into a long list of consumer goods, the survey found that consumers seemed to be most suspicious of its use in food. Of those interviewed in the survey 69 per cent of respondents were against the use of nanoadditives in spices to prevent them from becoming lumpy; and 84 per cent rejected the idea of making foods look appealing for longer through the use of nanoparticles. The results are significant, because it shows how consumers instincts and awareness of nanotechnology leads them to make decisions that are driven by quite distinct criteria. "We observed that consumers use emotional criteria rather than facts when judging nanotechnology,"​ said BfR president Professor Andreas Hensel. Moreover, they felt the consumers questioned by the BfR said that they received the most reliable information from consumer groups, and the least reliable information from politicians. They were also sceptical of information originating from the business community. Nanotechnology refers to the control of matter at an atomic or molecular scale of between one and 100 nanometres (nm) - that's one millionth of a millimetre. Despite still being in its infancy, current estimates on the value of products using nanotechnology put it currently in the range of €5bn. According to some, the market could be worth as much as €16bn by 2020.

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