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April 7, 2009

Nanoparticles aren’t any more toxic to cells than larger particles.


Does size matter?…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

All sorts of consumer products make use of nanoparticles, including paint, tires, and cosmetics. Some studies have questioned the safety of these tiny particles, suggesting that they become more deadly to cells the smaller they get. Brian Thrall is a nanotoxicologist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. He and his colleagues tested the biological response that silica nanoparticles had on cells. Thrall says the nanoparticles didn’t act any differently from larger ones.

We see there’s a lot more similarity between the nanoscale and the microscale than there are differences.

Thrall says the key is not the size of the particles but their total surface area. He says understanding these basic properties better could help scientists determine how nanoparticles can be used safely. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.