Nanoparticles: Health Effects-Pros and Cons

Maureen R Gwinn and Val Vallyathan. (2006) “Nanoparticles: Health Effects-Pros and Cons.” Environmental Health Perspectives, in press. [Full article]

Abstract: With the advent of nanotechnology, the prospects for engineered nanomaterials of 1-100 nm in industrial applications, medical imaging, disease diagnoses, drug delivery, cancer treatment, gene therapy, and other areas of use have progressed rapidly. The potential of nanoparticles (NPs) in these innumerable uses are infinite with novel new applications explored in a dynamic world.

The potential toxic health effects of these NPs associated with human exposure is unknown. Many fine particles generally considered as “nuisance dusts”, are likely to acquire unique surface properties when engineered to nanosize and may exhibit toxic biological effects. The nuisance dust thereby may become transported to distant sites and induce potentially adverse health effects. In addition, the beneficial uses of NPs in drug delivery, cancer treatment and gene therapy may cause unintentional human exposure. Due to the lack of knowledge associated with health effects of NP exposure, we have an ethical duty to take precautionary measures in their use.

In this review, an attempt is made to rationally highlight the potential toxic human health effects of ultrafine particles (UFPs) generated by anthropogenic activities and to their cardiopulmonary outcomes. The comparability of engineered NPs suggests that the human health effects are likely to be similar to that of UFPs. Therefore, it is prudent to elucidate their toxicological effect to minimize occupational and environmental exposure. Highlighting the human health outcomes potentially caused by UFPs is not intended to give a lesser importance to either the unprecedented technological and industrial rewards of the nanotechnology or their beneficial human uses.

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