As a result of a focused workshop on the toxicology of nano-silver, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) published an opinion (No. 24/2010) piece entitled Safety of nano silver in consumer products: many questions remain open (in English) and, BfR rät von Nanosilber in Lebensmitteln und Produkten des täglichen Bedarfs ab (in German); these are neither reports nor recommendations.
Nano-silver compounds and applications have been the source of heated debate for some time now. A number of systematic studies were funded and undertaken nationally and internationally to establish the effects of nano-silver on human health and the environment. One of those studies is sponsored by the OECD and has been reported by the NIA.
The BfR organised a workshop to clarify its position against the use of nano-silver with a number of experts in toxicology and customer protection attending. The conclusion was that there is not enough information. "The discussion confirmed the words of caution of BfR", said BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, "because the situation continues to be characterised by the fact that not enough secured scientific findings about the specific effects of nano-sized silver particles are available".
One significant point that was highlighted over and over again in the opinion piece was the lack of data on potential nano-silver toxicity. Academics and industry experts agreed that very few completed studies are available for consideration while some old toxicological studies do not comply with modern standards of data gathering. The opinion piece is cautious of its results: "there might be an toxicological effect profile with additional toxic effects [of nano-silver] which have not yet been described for silver so far".
The lack of data is demonstrated across the board with areas such as skin (sensitisation potential, irritation effect), reproduction toxicity, chronic toxicity and carcinogenic potential. However the press release concludes with a statement : "Articles of daily use and consumer products may not constitute any health risk based on statutory provisions during proper use or foreseeable misuse".
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