An increase in the number of dietary supplements made with nanoparticles — so-called “nanoceuticals” — is raising growing concerns about their potential for toxicity in the wake of little government oversight, according to an article in the Feb. 9 online issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Britt Erickson notes that manufacturers of dietary supplements are increasingly using nano-sized particles (about 1/5000th the width of a single human hair) to boost nutrient absorption, enhance mental focus and creativity, and other health-promoting functions. One nonprofit organization that tracks nanotechnology estimates at least 44 “nanoceuticals” are currently on the market, quadruple the number that existed three years ago.
But consumers have no way of knowing whether a “nanoceutical” is safe or whether it does what it claims to do, the article notes. Unlike drugs, dietary supplements do not need to be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration for safety and effectiveness before marketing. This lack of government oversight, coupled with growing concerns about the potential toxicity of nanoparticles, has led consumer groups to urge regulators to do more to ensure that nanoceuticals are safe and effective. Notes one regulatory expert, “If FDA waits much longer, we are going to be faced with hundreds of products and hundreds of companies and a much more difficult situation.”