Nanoparticles in our environment may have more harmful effects than we think

Nanoparticles environment may have more harmful effects than we think

Researchers from University of Denmark have some rather bleak news when it comes to nanoparticles in the environment and its harmful effect on humans. Yet, it’s better to know now and deal with the issue then wait until nanotech really takes off, out of control.

Interestingly, they lump nano-silver in with nano-cadmium and show that nano-silver is widely used in various industries. We present the information here unaltered from the press release.


Researchers warn that a combination of nanoparticles and contaminants may form a cocktail that is harmful to our cells. In their study, 72 pct. of cells died after exposure to a cocktail of nano-silver and cadmium ions.

Nanoparticles are becoming increasingly widespread in our environment. Thousands of products contain nanoparticles because of their unique properties. Silver nanoparticles are one example: They have an effective antibacterial effect and can be found in refrigerators, sports clothes, cosmetics, tooth brushes, water filters, etc.

Professor Frank Kjeldsen, SDU, has lad a cell study, that, in his view, causes concern. The study is published in Nanotoxicoloy.

There is a significant difference between how the cells react when exposed to nanosilver alone and when they are exposed to a cocktail of nanosilver and cadmium ions. Cadmium ions are naturally found everywhere around us on Earth.

In the study, 72 pct. of the cells died, when exposed to both nanosilver and cadmiun ions. When exposed to nanosilver only, 25 pct. died. When exposed to cadmium ions only, 12 pct. died.

The study was conducted on human liver cancer cells.

  • This study indicates, that we should not look at nanoparticles isolated when we investigate and discuss the effects, they may have on our health. We need to take cocktail effects into account, said Professor Frank Kjeldsen, Dept of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, SDU, adding:
  • Products with nano particles are being developed and manufactured every day, but in most countries there are no regulations, so there is no way of knowing what and how many nanoparticles are being released into the environment. In my opinion, this should be stopped.

Other studies, led by Professor Kjeldsen have previously shown that human cells interact with metal nanoparticles.

One study showed that nano-silver leads to the formation free radicals in cells and changes in the form and amount of proteins. Many serious diseases are characterized by an overproduction of free radicals in cells. This applies to cancer and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.


Editor’s note: It’s hard for me to believe that cadmium would cause less damage than nano-silver since cadmium is in and of itself so toxic. Will I stop using silver-based supplements? No. There are other ways humans are receiving nanometals – it’s even being proffered as the future of medicine. I believe that should be the focus of human toxicology tests, not necessarily supplements. Remember – silver is used in the hospital/pharma setting – and for a good reason! I first heard about the concept of silver as a medicine in a burn cream I was prescribed for an injury. Perhaps the toxic cocktail of nanometals includes other metals too? Regardless, it’s important to have tests on nanotech before it fully takes off.

Watch a video about the results here.

Image credit: SDU

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