Nanoparticles Found in Baby Formula: Should We Be Concerned?
I am about to share some information that really took me by surprise at first, and then upset me that it is happening at all. These are our babies we are talking about here.. Okay, so chances are you are wondering what in the world a nanoparticle is and what possible good reason could it be included in baby formula?
Let’s walk through this together and go over the information I found when I investigated the claims. I am working off a report just released by Friends of the Earth that tested six major baby formula brands.
[Tweet “What are potentially dangerous #nanoparticles doing in #babyformula? @foe_us report by @ianilluminato #FDAProtectBabies, #Nanomoratoriumnow”]
What is Nanotechnology and What are Nanoparticles?
Nanoparticles are tiny little engineered particles, about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair! The term ‘nanotechnology’ basically describes the manipulation of things at a really, really small scale, several hundred times smaller than our blood cells.
The interesting and also the concerning thing about manipulating materials at this scale is that familiar substances change in ways that scientists may not expect or predict.
Let me give you an example. We’re all familiar with the thick white sunscreen worn by lifeguards, etc. If we use nanotechnology to reduce the size of those particles to the nanoscale, suddenly those white zinc particles become transparent. This can be useful. The problem is that at this tiny scale, the particles change in other ways as well. We now know that those zinc nanoparticles are also much more toxic than the larger zinc particles – and unfortunately that appears to be true of many nanoparticles.
So a key concern for us is the uncertainty associated with nanotechnology. That’s why we need new safety testing before nanoparticles are used in products.
So what does this have to do with Infant Formula?
Friends of the Earth recently commissioned a laboratory to analyze the six most popular baby formulas for the purpose of determining if they contained nanoparticles. Since there are no current requirements by the FDA to label a product that contains nanoparticles, lab analysis are the best way to test the ingredients.
There is little information available for consumers to learn about where these ingredients are used in products and what the risks might be. The results showed that all six baby formulas tested did in fact contain nanoparticles of some type.
Here are the findings:
The three types of nanoparticles found in testing were:
- “needle-like” nano hydroxyapatite
- nano titanium dioxide (TiO2)
- nano silica dioxide (SiO2)
Each of the above has cause for concern for various reasons. The report goes on to detail previous research and studies on the different types of nanoparticles and their possible dangers.
Nano HA is most likely a calcium source for the formula, or could be used as an abrasive, bulking and emulsion stabilizer. However the needle-form is more commonly used in oral and bone surgeries.
TiO2 is a brightener or whitener for food and beverage products, anti-caking agent
Nano silica dioxide is used as a ‘trickle and flow’ aid in powdered food products, as a clearing agent
in beer and wine, as a food additive (amorphous silica found to be nano) and as a food coating
[Tweet “Oh No! Not #babyformula?! New @foe_us report by @ianilluminato www.foe.org/nanobabyformula reveals potentially hazardous #nanoingredients”]
In October of 2015, the European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) provided evidence that nano-hydroxyapatite is potentially toxic, could be absorbed and enter cells and should not be used in cosmetics such as toothpaste, teeth whiteners and mouth washes.
The available information indicates that nano-hydroxyapatite in needle form is of concern in relation to potential toxicity. Therefore, needle-shaped nano-hydroxyapatite should not be used in cosmetic products. -SCCS
I would think it would be pretty easy to understand that if a product is not safe for us to use in on our skin then it probably isn’t safe for us to consume. I would also like to point our that warning label that is now required on the supplement versions:
Caution: For adults only. Consult physician if pregnant/nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition. Keep out of reach of children.
[Tweet “#Nano #BabyFormula, REALLY?!! New @foe_us report by @ianilluminato www.foe.org/nanobabyformula shows #nanoingredients linked to health hazards”]
Nano hydroxyapatite is listed as an inhalation hazard by some chemical companies. Common sense would indicate that additional research would be wide to understand if powdered baby formulas containing needle-like nanoparticles would pose a health concern for workers and others that many be in contact with it.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cautioned,
…certain inhaled nanoparticles may be deposited in the respiratory tract and may cause inflammation and damage to lung cells and tissues. -OSHA, 2013
Studies have also shown that nanomaterials can enter the bloodstream via the lungs, raising major occupational health and safety concerns (Oberdörster et al., 2005).
Nano Titanium Dioxide (TiO2)
One of the concerns with nanoparticles is that it can enter into the body’s cells. Nano titanium dioxide is highly mobile in the body and has been detected in both humans and animals in the blood, liver and spleen. A 2015 study found that food
grade TiO2 can be absorbed in the bloodstream.
Studies show that titanium dioxide can damage DNA, disrupt the function of cells, interfere with the defense activities of immune cells and, by adsorbing fragments of bacteria and ‘smuggling’ them across the gastrointestinal tract, can provoke inflammation.
Research using pregnant mice discovered nano titanium dioxide particles were transferred to the offspring and were also associated with brain damage as well as damage to the nervous systems.
Nano Silica Dioxide (SiO2)
Recent studies have shown that Nano silica has been found in the livers of rats and mice after oral administration. In vitro studies show a significant percentage of the Nano silica remains undissolved and that “the presence of undissolved Nano silica particles in the gut in vivo is considered likely”.
Animal studies have shown placental transfer and fetal uptake of silica. Further studies are warranted to determine if the enhanced sensitivity of the fetus may mean that even low doses of nanomaterials will have adverse effects.
With each new technological advancement comes new risks. And while there are benefits to using nanomaterials, we must consider the concerns.
We are not against nanotechnology per say. Some nanoscale ingredients may offer potential benefits, though their safety remains poorly understood and a growing body of scientific research is raising concerns about their use in food and many other consumer products.
We are demand greater accountability and transparency from food producers and retailers to allow consumers to make informed choices about this novel set of technologies.
If nanotechnology is to be developed safely, responsibly and transparently, there is an urgent need for further research and dissemination of information to policy makers, regulators, consumers and the scientific community .
So What Should We Do?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with ensuring baby formulas are safe, however, the FDA does not approve the safety of infant formulas before they can be marketed. The only thing the FDA is currently requiring is that baby formulas meet certain nutritional requirements and they are screened for pathogens. The only other requirement is that a company must register with the FDA and provide a notice before marketing a formula. However, these rules do not include screening or safety testing of nanomaterials or other potentially toxic synthetic ingredients. Baby formulas are intended for our most vulnerable population and should be regulated with the utmost of care.
A product fed to millions of infants should not be permitted to go to market if we are not certain that the ingredients it contains are safe for human consumption. –Friends of The Earth
Other parts of the world are addressing this issue. Consider the European Union and how far advanced than the U.S. with policies on this emerging technology. The European regulators have enacted a range of precautionary policies or nanotechnologies. European Parliament is working towards a moratorium on novel foods containing nanomaterials. France, Belgium, and Denmark have implemented a mandatory registry for nanomaterials, and the EU has implemented a nanofood-labeling regime.
In stark contrast to the European Union, the United States has not developed any mandatory regulations or safety assessments for nanomaterials used in food or consumer products. It is important for U.S. consumers to know that manufacturers are not required to list nanomaterial ingredients on product packaging in the United States.[Tweet “Why are #EUBabies safer than #USBabies from possibly hazardous #nanoparticles? New @foe_us report by @ianilluminato www.foe.org/nanobabyformula”]
Let Your Voice be Heard
Now that you have an understanding of why nanoparticles are concerning, especially in baby formula, it’s time to take action.
- Join in signing the Friends of the Earth petition to demand Gerber, Similac, Emfamily & Advantage reformulate.
- Join the Mamavation Facebook party on Thursday, May 19th at 6pm PST/7pm MST/8pm CST/9pm EST to learn more and get the word out about this issue.
[Tweet “Why isn’t #FDA protecting us from #nanoparticles in #BabyFormula linked to harm? New @foe_us report by @ianilluminato www.foe.org/nanobabyformula”]
This is what you can do right now:
~ Learn more about nanotechnology, take action and support the efforts to create a safe food system by visiting Friends of the Earth.
~ Help spread awareness on this issue because the more people who understand the potential harm that can come from nanoparticle exposure, the more demand there will be for change. Share this post with your friends, co-workers and family members.
~ Reach out to the baby formula manufacturers and ask them to remove nanomaterials from their products until more testing can be completed.
~ Stand with Friends of the Earth to demand a moratorium on the use of nanotechnology in the food sector and urge policy makers to regulate and label food, food packaging and agricultural products containing manufactured nanomaterials. Sign the petition, and share it with your friends and family.
~ Purchase organic products as often as possible as they will be less likely to have been exposed to nanoparticles.
~ Join us for a Facebook Party sponsored by Friends of the Earth on the Mamavation Facebook Fan Page on Thursday, May 19th at 6pm PDT/9pm EDT. Look here for more information.
I feel this report shows that there is an urgent need for additional research on nanotechnology. This should not be something that we as consumers have no say in. Until nanotechology can be proven safe for human consumption, it would not be sold without at least labeling requirements.
For more information and to download the complete report, visit FOE.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post to help spread the word about this important new research from Friends of the Earth.