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What are they?

Nanoparticles are particles at sizes between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter. A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.

Nano-sized particles exist naturally, such as in volcanic ash, sea spray, and smoke, and can also be created for a variety of products. Engineered nanomaterials can take on unique optical, magnetic, electrical, and other properties. 

Nanoparticles are used in cosmetics, health care products, pharmaceuticals, sporting goods, stain-resistant clothing, tires, concrete, and electronics. They are also used in medical diagnosis, imaging, and drug delivery, and in environmental cleanup.

See also: Factories Homes

Where are Nanoparticles found?

  • Consumer products - cosmetics, health care products, sporting goods, stain-resistant clothing, tires, and electronics
  • Air – volcanic ash and smoke

How can I be exposed to Nanoparticles?

Nanoparticles commonly enter(s) the body through:

Inhalation (breathing)
  • Breathing indoor or outdoor air, emissions from natural sources or consumer products
Skin contact
  • Touching products made with nanoparticles or using medical diagnostic equipment

What happens when I am exposed to Nanoparticles?

Very little is known about the potential human health effects of nanoparticles.

There is some evidence that exposure to nanoparticles may affect the respiratory and heart systems.

Who is at risk for exposure to Nanoparticles?

  • Consumers
    • Some consumer products and medical procedures contain nanoparticles.

Reduce your risk

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to nanoparticles, contact your health care professional. 

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Very little is known about the potential effects of nanoparticles on human health and the environment. Even well-known materials, such as silver, may pose a hazard when engineered to nano size.

National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
  • DNA Nanotechnology: GeneEd

    Links to information on DNA nanotechnology, including animation, research, games, tutorials, experiments, educational resources, and a video.

Additional Resources
  • Control of Nanoscale Materials under the Toxic Substances Control Act (Environmental Protection Agency)

    Information about regulatory approaches, information gathering, reporting, and international cooperation regarding chemical substances of 1-100 nanometers (nm), as well as related links and resources.

  • Nanotechnology 101 (National Nanotechnology Initiative)

    Resources on nanotechnology, including background information, a timeline of technical developments, and a glossary of relevant terms.

  • Nanomaterials (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)

    Information on nanomaterials, including their location, environmental health research, associated health risks due to exposure, as well as links to additional resources, from a federal institute that investigates the interplay between environmental exposures, human biology, genetics, and common diseases to help prevent disease and improve human health.

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