Our environment is increasingly becoming polluted with nanoparticles, which can include carbon-based chemicals or inorganic compounds like asbestos. While they have existed in our world for millions of years, human production of synthetic nanoparticles has ramped up. New research has examined their potential impacts on health; scientists at the University of Southern Denmark found that nanosilver can combine with cadmium ions and have a detrimental effect on human cells.
Nanosilver has antimicrobial properties can be found in many products, like appliances, cosmetics, toothbrushes, athletic clothing and water filters.
Cadmium ions can also be found throughout the environment. In this work, scientists led by Professor Frank Kjeldsen found that when human liver cells were exposed to a nanosilver and cadmium cocktail, 72 percent of them died. These findings have been reported in Nanotoxicology.
This work, said the scientists, indicates that the impact of nanoparticles should not be studied as though they exist in isolation. It’s important to also investigate how they interact with other chemicals. “We need to take cocktail effects into account,” said Kjeldsen, of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
“Products with nanoparticles are being developed and manufactured every day, but in most countries, there are no regulations, so there is no way of knowing what and how many nanoparticles are being released into the environment. In my opinion, this should be stopped,” he added.
Previous work by Professor Kjeldsen has found that metal nanoparticles also impact human cells. Nanosilver can cause free radicals, which are harmful chemicals, to form in cells and change protein levels and structures. Many diseases have been linked to an overproduction of free radicals.