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Research highlights potential inhalation of nano cosmetics powders

By Simon Pitman , 28-Jun-2012
Last updated the 28-Jun-2012 at 12:11 GMT

Nanotechnology-based cosmetic powders may be inhaled and stick in the upper airways when the particles clump together, researchers in the US claim.

Headed by Yevgen Nazarenko at the Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, the research was based on nanotechnology-developed cosmetics powders commonly found in make-up products such as blusher.

The nanoparticles are used to improve the spread of the powders on to the face and to achieve a more desirable, smoother looking effect that blends in easier to the skins natural complexion.

However, concerns over how the lack of scientific evidence as to how these microscopic particles may affect humans and future guidance and regulation triggered this latest research programme, the results of which were published in a peer-reviewed article in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal.

Research used mannequin and TEM equipment

The researchers conducted its study by using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and laser diffraction spectroscopy devices to test what happens to six different types of nano-based powders when applied to a human mannequin.

The intake of the released powder particles was simultaneously sampled through ‘ports’ inserted in the mannequin’s nostrals.

The scientists said that their study showed that nanomaterial was discovered to have entered the ports in the form of nanoparticle-containing ‘agglomerates’, described as being larger than the 1 – 100nm aerosol fraction.

Nanomaterials evident in the upper airway 

The research further observed that the depositions of these agglomerates were concentrated on the tracheobronchial and head airways, and not in the lower regions of the airway, such as the alveolar, as would be expected from the primary nanoparticle size.

“We conclude that the use of de facto nanotechnology-based cosmetic powders has a strong potential to result in inhalation exposure to single and agglomerated nanoparticles and that this potential should be quantitatively described by exposure assessment studies,” the researchers noted in the published article.

Although there is some scientific research conducted into the affect of such nanoparticles in the alveolar region of the airway, the scientists say that they now intend to further the course of this study to discover the health implications of inhaling this type of nanoparticle in the upper part of the airway, specifically the throat and head.

Published in The Environmental Health Perspectives Journal, by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 120 (6) June 2012.

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