Nanomaterials are used for their antimicrobial properties in various products including cosmetics and in recent years European institutions and organisations have been at the forefront of finding the safe and practical implementation of nanotechnology.
Efforts have been made to address knowledge gaps through research, the financing of responsible innovation, and upgrading regulatory frameworks.
Nanoparticles may be small, but they are at the centre of a huge debate, particularly for the cosmetics industry, namely because the consumer already perceives them as ‘inherently problematic’.
Despite the benefits of nanomaterials (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are used as UV filters in sunscreen, for example, and are said to have a high level of efficacy) there is continuing debate, even in 2015, as to whether they could pose health risks to consumers.
At a Cosmetics Europe nano focused workshop last year, EC deputy director general Martin Seychell said that avoiding the stigmatisation of nanomaterials cannot be addressed by regulators alone.
“Having an innovative technology is no guarantee of public acceptance,” Mr Seychell informed the room of cosmetic professionals.
Getting the right information about nano out there..
Thus, this EC publication is asking questions around engineered nanoparticles and how they interact with us.
Several articles in Thematic Issue reveal how nanotechnology is likely to further revolutionise various sectors, providing "we do not make some error, and harm ourselves and our environment by exposure to new forms of hazard."
One of the review's examines the potential uses and scientific, technical and manufacturing problems facing ‘van der Waals heterostructures’ — an emerging science which uses building block-like nanomaterials.
Van der Waals heterostructures are nanomaterials built by layering different materials, each one atom thick, on top of each other, to create materials with unique properties and uses. Graphene, a honeycomb-like two-dimensional (2D) crystal, is just one atom thick.
It has chemical, electrical and mechanical properties unlike its three-dimensional (3D) graphite form.
There has been a boom in research to exploit these properties for various applications, which range from tissue engineering to ingredient delivery. Researchers are now identifying and probing the properties of other 2D crystals and the ways they may be combined.