* Tiny particles may absorb into skin, organs
* FDA uncertain about health effects of nanoparticles
WASHINGTON, April 20 U.S. health regulators
said consumer products that use nanotechnology may have unknown
effects on the human body, and advised food and cosmetic
companies on Friday to further study the safety of these tiny
Nanotechnology involves designing and manufacturing
materials on the scale of one-billionth of a meter - so small it
cannot be seen with a regular light microscope.
It is used in hundreds of products in areas ranging from
stain-resistant clothing and cosmetics to food additives, but
the health effects of nanoparticles are still poorly understood.
Nanoparticles may be able to penetrate the skin, or move
between organs, and scientists do not always understand what
effect this will have.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued two draft
guidelines on Friday calling for more studies, suggesting the
FDA is early in its review of the nanotech world and for now is
putting much of the onus on companies to be responsible for
"Understanding nanotechnology remains a top FDA priority,"
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement. "FDA is
strengthening the scientific tools and methods for evaluating
food products, cosmetics, drugs and medical devices."
The FDA advised companies that use nanotech in food
additives or food packaging to consult with the agency and show
that the changes are safe before selling their products.
"The consequences (to consumers and to the food industry) of
broadly distributing a food substance that is later recognized
to present a safety concern have the potential to be
significant," the draft guide says.
Makers of U.S. food additives and ingredients must prove
that their ingredients are "generally recognized as safe" in
order to legally sell them.
The FDA said nanotechnology does not automatically fall into
this category, meaning companies would have to show additional
safety data before approval.
For cosmetics, the FDA said companies should also do
additional testing of products that, for example, use
nanotechnology to create smoother-feeling moisturizers or
(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)