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Nano Particles

Viimati uuendatud: 11.10.2019

Nano Particles

Nano particles or Nanos are such particles, at least one dimension of which is in the range of 1-100 nanometres (nm). The human eye resolution is about thousand times smaller – 100,000 nm equals 0.1 mm, which is roughly the thickness of a sheet of paper.

Nanos can be divided according to their formation: natural and human-made. Natural Nanos are created, for example, during volcano eruptions and forest fires. Viruses are also in Nano size. Human-made Nanos are developed intentionally, according to the desired characteristics. Their safety to health and environment has not been proved yet.

Contemporary possibilities enable to employ Nanos in each field that uses some sort of materials: dirt-repellent and non-wrinkling clothes, self-cleaning windows, fuel economic engines.

Nanos can be programmed, so to speak – for example, an insecticide can be “packaged” into Nanos that “open” and release the poison only after reaching the stomach of the bug, thus avoiding the undesired effect on other organisms.

Ordinary people come in contact with Nano-technology materials mostly in cosmetics protecting against UV-radiation. If a sunscreen containing larger particles of titanium-dioxide (TiO2) or zinc oxide (ZnO) leaves a whitish layer on skin, then the lotion containing the Nano particles of the same substances seems transparent as Nanos disperse visible light less.

Health Effects

The same characteristics of Nanos which make them so special make determining their effects equally hard. Nanos must be treated as substances of a completely new type.

Nanos have a different effect on organisms than the larger particles of the same substances, both in the good and bad sense. As studies must consider the effect of all kinds of related factors, determining scientifically grounded arguments takes time.

Scientists have determined 14 Nano materials with the most harmful effect, which should be the first ones to scientifically investigate from the safety aspect and as soon as possible: Nano silver, Nano iron, nano-TiO2-, -Al2O3, –CeO, –ZnO-, -SiO2, Nano clays, printing ink, C60-fullerens, single-layer Nano pipes, multiple-layer Nano pipes, polystyrene and dendrimers.

Health risks to humans emanating from Nano particles are caused by inhaling them. Due to a great specific surface, the Nano particles can also bind, for example, toxic heavy metals and act as their carriers, facilitating the entry of bound contaminants into cells.

The main hazards to the respiratory system are carcinogenicity and chronic poisoning. Today, there is no certain data about the toxic influence on other organs except for lungs. Less data exists about the Nano materials’ influence on the skin and no evidence have been found yet about their influence once they penetrate the organism through skin.


Taking into account the uncertain health risks of Nano materials, and limitations for identifying and measuring the Nano materials present in ambient air, the principle of caution should be applied. Protective measures recommended against Nano materials in the air are the same as in the case of aerosols and fine dust.

It is of paramount importance to develop methods for measuring contact with Nano materials at workplaces, and to additionally evaluate the effectiveness of protective equipment, such as ventilation, filters, personal protective gear. Due to limited information on the effect of Nano materials, it is currently recommended to use the same personal protective equipment as in the case of gases and aerosols.

The practical safe handling manuals on workplaces must also be reviewed in regard to Nano materials.

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