Thursday, January 25, 2007

Are your socks making you sick?

Yup...certain socks, slippers, food containers, and anything you've washed in your new washing machine that uses silver ions to kill bacteria may make you sick. To kill germs, manufacturers are now using nanomaterials in their products, mostly containing silver, which is regulated as a pesticide!

There's a winning combination - pesticide in food containers. Makes you want to go foraging for nuts and berries, doesn't it. The manufacturer of the washing machine that "kills germs" even brags that it leaves behind a residual coating to keep your clothing smelling fresh for 30 days. Wash your clothes today, and they may be safe to wear in 30 days!

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate the use of silver as an antibacterial in products, but there is a loophole. If the manufacturer does not claim the product kills germs, the EPA can't regulate the use of the toxic chemical.

I'm sure these manufacturers realize they are being an enormous help to the medical industry not only in creating illness by exposing us to pesticides on an hourly basis, but killing too much bacteria (some of which we need to keep us healthy!) has proven to be a disaster since we do not have the opportunity to build a natural immunity to germs if we are never exposed to them. We know the germs evolve faster than we can create antibiotics to kill them because there are stories almost daily of "supergerms" and how you (yup, you) are at fault because you conned (?!) your doctor into prescribing antibiotics when you didn't need them.

Here's the whole story from "Environmental Science & Technology Online:"

Policy News –
January 3, 2007

Antimicrobial nanomaterials meet increased regulatory scrutiny

The first federal restrictions on nanotechnology could be coming soon.

Kris Christen
A washing machine made by Samsung Electronics is one of a rapidly growing number of consumer products that advertisements say are embedded with nanoscale silver particles that can kill bacteria.

In a major reversal, the U.S. EPA has determined that clothes washing machines that use silver ions as a disinfectant will have to be registered as a pesticide. Until now, the agency has not regulated nanomaterials, including silver ions, made of a bioaccumulating, persistent, and toxic metal. Yet EPA's decision may be meaningless, critics point out, because if the company deletes from its advertising the assertion that silver can kill bacteria, it won't have to register the washer.

The fact that a product can slip past the agency without being registered if the company doesn't claim that it can kill bacteria is a "quirk" of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and "it'll be intriguing to see where we go on this," says Andrew Maynard, science adviser to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He and others are urgently calling for research into nanotechnology's potential environmental, health, and safety risks.

In an assessment updated in November, the project found that the number of consumer products made with nanotechnologies has increased by 70% since March 2006. The most prevalent nanomaterial being used is silver, now found in 47 products, Maynard says.

The wastewater treatment industry, in particular, has pointed out that widespread use of household products, like the Samsung washer, that release silver ions into sanitary sewer systems could greatly increase silver concentrations in treatment-plant discharges, leading to adverse effects, such as bioaccumulation in fish and killing of aquatic life.

"We think it's great that EPA's going to regulate" this application, says Phil Bobel, manager of environmental compliance for the city of Palo Alto, Calif., and past president of Tri-TAC, a technical advisory committee on regulatory issues affecting wastewater treatment plants in California. "Whether it'll end up going far enough to actually keep that silver out of our systems, we don't know."

Advertisements by the manufacturer, Samsung Electronics, claim that nanoscale silver particles released during the wash and rinse cycles achieve 99.9% sterilization of bacteria and leave behind a residual silver coating on clothing to keep it smelling fresh for up to 30 days. Yet the EPA scientists aren't certain whether this is an advertising gimmick to sell more machines or if this is a novel material. Silver is already regulated as a pesticide in a number of products.

If Samsung submits a FIFRA registration application to EPA, the agency will determine whether and under what conditions the silver ions can be used. The company must supply scientific data to show that the use of the nanoscale silver particles won't pose an unreasonable risk to people or the environment.

A finding by EPA that the technology involves nanomaterials could affect a wide range of consumer products, scientists say.

Previously, EPA classified the machine as a device, meaning it wasn't subject to registration requirements under FIFRA. Concerns raised by states and various industries, however, caused the agency to reevaluate the product and determine in late November "that the silver ions are defined as pesticides, and therefore it needs to be regulated," says Enesta Jones, an EPA spokesperson. "We don't know if it's a nanomaterial at this point," but if it is, "it would be the first federal restriction on nanotechnology."

Jones admits that if Samsung pulls pesticidal claims from its advertising, the company won't have to register the washing machine under FIFRA. Other companies have already taken note, removing statements of germ-killing capabilities in marketing their nanotech consumer products. A prime example is The Sharper Image, a company that has developed socks, slippers, and food containers embedded with silver nanoparticles, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that relayed its concerns in a November letter to EPA.

"Failure to identify nanoscale pesticide ingredients should not be an excuse to circumvent the FIFRA registration requirements," NRDC wrote. "Because of the significant potential for serious environmental harm, EPA must conduct a comprehensive assessment of all products that use nanosilver as a pesticide."

EPA will issue a Federal Register notice in the next couple of months outlining the agency's position on the classification of silver-ion-generating washing machines, according to Jones. KRIS CHRISTEN


Geraldine said...

Yikes, scary stuff Michelle, is nothing sacred, even SOCKS!!!!

Thanks for sharing.

Huggs, G

Michelle Wood said...

Nice to see you, G! :-)

Yes, and we wonder why there is so much illness. The washing machine is the one that gets me...leaving a 30-day dose of pesticide residue on your clothing is about like rubbing it on your skin every day...and this is supposed to be good for people? And they don't even have to tell you it's there?

My clothes washer better last forever; I'm not ever buying a new one and taking the chance on having my clothing saturated with pesticides.

Also, I may just revert to using glass containers for food storage. There is ongoing debate over evidence that the plastics used in some products upset hormone balances which has manifested in very early development in young girls and very early menopause in women. Now, with the silver nanoparticles added, plastic containers seem more disasterously unhealthy than ever.

silver said...

Silver is non-toxic to human beings. Therefore it is not a pesticide.

The EPA is once again overstepping it's boundaries.

You are just misinformed about what a pesticide is.

Do a little research before spouting out such nonsense.

Michelle said...

Thanks for your comment.

Perhaps pure silver is non-toxic, but no one (incuding the scientific community) knows about these silver nano-particles now being used. If the claim is true that they kill germs, then they certainly are a hazard to people as well as the environment.

Frankly, I think the EPA should dramatically expand its boundaries. Perhaps there would be one unpolluted river left in the U.S. if they had "overstepped" more often.

You may call it "nonsense," but something is causing diseases and cancers - all these "low levels won't hurt you" and "that's a non-toxic substance" have added up to new figures for the estimated number of people who will contract cancer in their lifetime:

Men: 1 out of 2 - yes, 50% of the men in the United States will probably get cancer.

Women: 1 out of 3 - 33.3% of the women in the U. S. will probably get cancer.

Is this "better living through chemistry?" I think not. I would rather err on the side of health and safety than on the side of "it's probably non-toxic" and "at these levels, it won't hurt you."