Endocrine disrupters are not the only worrying chemicals that ordinary consumers are exposed to in everyday life. Nanoparticles of silver, found in dietary supplements, cosmetics and food packaging, now worry scientists. A new study from the University of Southern Denmark shows that nanosilver can penetrate our cells and cause damage.
Silver has an antibacterial effect and therefore the food and cosmetic industry often coat their products with silver nanoparticles. Nanosilver can be found in drinking bottles, cosmetics, band aids, toothbrushes, running socks, refrigerators, washing machines and food packagings.
"Silver as a metal does not pose any danger, but when you break it down to nano-sizes, the particles become small enough to penetrate a cell wall," explains associate professor Frank Kjeldsen, of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Southern Denmark. "If nanosilver enters a human cell, it can cause changes in the cell."
Together with their research colleagues they have just published the results of a study of such cell damages in the journal ACS Nano.
The researchers examined human intestinal cells, as they consider these to be most likely to come into contact with nano-silver, ingested with food.
"We can confirm that nanosilver leads to the formation of harmful, so-called free radicals in cells. We can also see that there are changes in the form and amount of proteins. This worries us," says Kjeldsen.
A large number of serious diseases are characterized by the fact that there is an overproduction of free radicals in cells. This applies to cancer and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Kjeldsen emphasizes that their research is conducted on human cells in a laboratory, not based on living people. They also point out that they do not know how large a dose of nanosilver a person must be exposed to for the emergence of cellular changes.
"We don't know how much is needed, so we cannot conclude that nanosilver can make you sick. But we can say that we must be very cautious and worried when we see an overproduction of free radicals in human cells," they say.
Reference: Insights into the Cellular Response Triggered by Silver Nanoparticles using Quantitative Proteomics. ACS NANO.
Source: University of Southern Denmark