Nanotechnology is the study of materials and devices measuring less than a nanometer, or one billionth of a meter in size. A human hair is 30,000 nanometers wide. Nanotechnology has been touted as the key to coming breakthroughs in medicine and robotics. Researchers wish to use nanotechnology's atom-by-atom construction technique to produce objects such as tiny, bacterium-sized devices that can repair clogged arteries, kill cancer cells or repair cellular damage from aging. With the world's population expected to reach 11 billion by 2050, scientists believe nanotechnology could help governments and industry keep our planet livable by slashing waste and helping provide sustainable food, clean water and pollution-free energy. Proponents say filter systems for drinking and waste water, natural gas pipelines and smokestacks can be designed at the molecular level to remove the smallest impurities.

However, as research continues on these lofty goals, business and industry are already developing uses for nanomaterials in everyday consumer products. Manufacturers have discovered that substances manipulated at the nano-scale have different properties than the same substances manipulated at larger scales. Many cosmetic and sunscreen manufacturers now use microscopic bits of silver called nanoparticles, not to make their products more effective, but to help make sunblock rub on clear. Companies have also added these materials to anti-aging creams, toothpastes and shampoos, as well as food containers and clothing. Critics claim these firms have added nanomaterials to their products without conducting any human testing to determine its safety. Advocates say research indicates nanomaterials can enter the bloodstream through contact with the skin and by ingestion and inhalation. Recent studies have found unhealthy reactions in human intestinal cells after exposure to silver nanoparticles. Nanoparticles can also move in the natural environment once discarded. Advocates say products with nanomaterials should be required to be tested for toxicity before being sold to the public and should be labeled once certified.

Pending Legislation:
S.1014 - Personal Care Products Safety Act

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Poll Opening Date
March 26, 2020
Poll Closing Date
April 1, 2020

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