EC identifies nanotechnology as key technology for the future and gets industry backing

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ultraviolet

The European Commission has highlighted nanotechnology as a Key Enabling Technology (KET) highlighting the benefits and promises the technology can provide for the future.

In light of this announcement, and recent studies highlighting health concerns of nanoparticles, spoke with Dr Ian Tooley, R&D manager at Croda Sun Care and Biopolymers, to discuss the different types of nanotechnology and how it can aid the industry.

“It is important to specify which type of nanotechnology is being discussed,”​ said Tooley. “We often hear a general accusation that nanotechnology is a new sphere of science which has not been subject to enough safety testing to make it safe for widespread human use.”

Some nanotechnology is safe and has been used for years

However, this generalisation does not apply to nano-scale sunscreens, according to the Croda researcher, as they have been safely used for 20 years or more and have been extensively studied for their safety.

In America the FDA has indicated its satisfaction with the safety profile of nano titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens when they published their Final Rule in June.

“Industry is working closely with the SCCS in Europe in the expectation of achieving a similar positive endorsement from them in the future,”​ explained Tooley.

As an ‘enabling technology’, the EC states that there are significant opportunities for nanotechnologies in the future, but as Tooley mentioned, the problems arise when discussing different types or forms of nanotechnology.

As there is no single nanotechnology industry it means there is always a continuum of quality research that has to be carried out which requires widescale cooperation between various industrial sectors.

The new EC strategy is to link societal challenges with technology and have a parallel safety discussion on specific uses via a techno-socio-economic innovation ecosystem which it claims should be a step forward to enable the timely delivery of the smart and sustainable growth objectives of the 2020 agenda.

Specificity is the key

Yesterday, brought you the story of how researchers in Germany had found nanoparticles influenced heart rate and rhythm​.

Tooley stresses that it is important to be specific when discussing individual reports of scientific studies into nanoparticles, as they may be misleading and create doubt where it is not necessary.

In reference to the Langendorff heart study mentioned above, he said: “This may be of relevance to the topic of nanotechnology in general but I would argue that it can be of little or no relevance for those concerned with the use of nano-scale sunscreens in topically applied creams and lotions because the sunscreens have been shown not to penetrate through intact skin and hence not to enter the blood.”

Nanopigments such as ZnO and TiO2 are minerals that are used in some sunscreens as filters where they ensure protection of the skin.

The adverse effects of failing to protect skin properly from the sun cannot be denied. Skin cancer rates and deaths are on the increase and the link between skin cancer and UV exposure is widely accepted.

“Inorganic sunscreens, which may be nano-scale, are some of the most effective and the mildest among the limited choice of UV filters available. With the weight of evidence firmly in favour of their safety, it seems to me that inorganic sunscreens should be highly valued core ingredients for sun protection,”​ concluded Tooley.

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