Nanotechnology is a wild and unregulated frontier. It could offer great health benefits. For example, Japanese researchers have developed a nanoparticle that fuses with cancer but not normal cells and induces apoptosis in those cancer cells(ref). On another front, there is concern that nanoparticles in cosmetics and personal care products will end up in the environment where they may have serious adverse effects(ref).
Increasing numbers of consumer products are being based on nanoscale ingredients and among them are over 44 dietary supplements, sometimes called nanoceuticals. Claims are made by the manufacturers of many of these substances that they offer greatly enhanced bioavailability or offer other unique health benefits. These nanoceuticals like other dietary supplements are not evaluated by the FDA or any other regulatory organization for either efficacy or safety. However, nanoparticulate forms of familiar substances like silver have different properties than the conventional forms and the long-term consequences of ingesting them are unknown. For example are nanoscale silver particles eventually excreted from the body or do they lodge in or next to cells and stay there? What do these nanoparticles do to cell membranes and how do they affect cell signaling? There could be important benefits to using some nanoceuticals and there could also be serious dangers involved with taking others. An editorial in the Feb 9 online edition of Chemical and Engineering News points out this situation and the weakness of the FDA regulations in not defining whether a nanoparticulate form of a familiar dietary substance should be treated as a new substance. Much stronger government oversite of nanoceuticals and other nanoscale consumer products is needed soon, for the numbers of companies producing such products is swelling rapidly(ref). In the interim I personally would not want to consume or suggest consuming a nanoceutical without seeing ample published research that establishes both its efficacy and long-term safety. And the same is true for breathing one.