As a new inventory of nanotechnology consumer products is released, the Royal Society has called for industry to disclose how it tests products containing nanoparticles for safety.
The inventory, produced by the US-based organisation,
Professor Ann Dowling, chair of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report into nanotechnologies, said, "We can see from this inventory that nanoscience has a huge range of applications and exciting potential to improve our everyday lives."
In 2004 a major Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering study concluded that most nanotechnologies pose no new risks, but highlighted uncertainties about the potential effects of free nanoparticles on health and the environment.
Dowling said, "We are calling for industry to put the methods they use to test the safety of products containing free nanoparticles, such as some cosmetics, into the public domain because this is one particular area where there is some uncertainty about safety.
"Nanoparticles can behave quite differently from larger materials of the same substance and it is these properties that many manufacturers seek to take advantage of. But these novel properties also mean that some nanoparticles may need to be subject to specific testing. And in order that the public can have confidence in these products the industry should publish details of their testing procedures.
"Increased transparency would also help stimulate collaboration between industrial researchers and academic scientists to develop consistent and agreed methods of testing.
"This inventory also highlights that research into the health and environmental impacts of nanoparticles must keep abreast with this rapidly advancing area of science to allow for its responsible development. We also need to see international agreement and cooperation to identify and carry out the research needed to underpin regulation."