Connect with us

Science & Technology

Nanoparticles in your food? You’re already eating them

I’ve been keeping my eye on the role of nanotechnology in food for a few years now, so I was interested to see a feature-length investigation called “Eating Nano” in this month’s E Magazine. In it, E editor Brita Belli takes a deep dive into the growing role of nanotechnology in food and agriculture, the current lack of oversight and regulations, and the growing consensus that more information and transparency are both sorely needed in relation to this growing field.
Nanotechnology involves the engineering and manipulation of particles at a nano scale. Nanoparticles, as they’re called, are measured in nanometers or billionths of one meter. Another way to put it: If a nanoparticle were the size of a football, a red blood cell would be the size of the field. Although some nanoparticles have been found to exist in nature (carbon nanoparticles exist in caramelized foods, for instance, and silverware has been shown to shed nano-sized silver particles), it’s the nanoparticles that are engineered in laboratories that have environmental health advocates concerned.
Here’s the thing: It turns out most materials start behaving differently at that size. According to the British corporate accountability organization As You Sow, which has been keeping tabs on the nanotech industry for several years, “materials reduced to the nanoscale either through engineered or natural processes can suddenly show very different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications such as alterations in color, electrical conductance, or permeability.”
Considering the fact that nanoparticles are now used to help deliver nutrients, keep food fresh for longer, and act as thickening and coloring agents in processed foods, these “different properties” might be cause for concern. Or – at the very least – they might be reason enough to conduct thorough research into their health impacts.
In actuality, companies are not required to disclose nano-sized ingredients, nor is there much active questioning about their safety. Instead, Belli writes, “From the government’s perspective, nano forms of silver, iron or titanium are no different, fundamentally, from their scaled-up counterparts which have already been safety tested, so the agency has ushered the particles into the food supply under the Generally Recognized as Safe provision.”
I’ve been hearing about nanoparticles in food packaging for a while now (it’s a market Belli says is expected to reach $20 billion by 2020), but I had no idea that there was nano-coating in the works for bananas. And what I was most surprised to learn is just how many food products already contain nanoparticles. As Belli writes: Nanoparticles can be used to purify water, as anticaking and gelatin-forming agents and in packaging to protect against UV light, prevent the growth of microbes or detect contamination. Titanium dioxide is added to a huge swath of products in nano form including paints, paper and plastics but also lends white pigment to most toothpastes and many processed foods, including Mentos, Trident and Dentyne gum, M&Ms, Betty Crocker Whipped Cream Frosting, Jello Banana Cream Pudding, Vanilla Milkshake Pop Tarts and Nestlé Original Coffee Creamer. The aforementioned products were featured in a report in February 2012 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology which concluded that each of us likely consumes some amount of titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles each day, and children under 10 likely consume the greatest amounts (around 1-2 mg TiO2 per kilogram body weight per day) due to their higher intake of frosted foods, candy, gum and other sweets. Although there is less science focused on ingested nanotech particles than on, say, the ones that are inhaled in industrial environments, Belli does point to the few studies that exist, including a recent one out of Cornell University that looked at chickens’ abilities to absorb iron after eating nanoparticles generally considered safe for human consumption. In it, researchers found that acute exposure to the particles changed the structure of the lining of the chickens’ intestinal walls, a change the lead scientist noted “serves to underscore how such particles, which have been widely studied and considered safe, cause barely detectable changes that could lead to, for example, over-absorption of other, harmful compounds.”
When it comes to questions about the health effects of eating nanoparticles, Belli quotes a guide on the American Society of Safety Engineers’ website, which reads: Nanoparticles may be ingested through drinking water, food additives, atmospheric dust on food, toothpaste and dental fillings and implants. Ingested nanoparticles can then be absorbed through ‘Peyer’s Plaques’ or small nodules in intestinal tissue that are part of the immune defense system. If nanoparticles enter the digestive system and proceed into the bloodstream, they could move throughout the body and cause damage. Of course, most of this – and much of the science Belli points to – is preliminary, based on very little hard science. And if that lack of a cautionary approach to science in a multibillion-dollar industry sounds familiar, that’s because – well, it is. The comparison to genetically modified foods is unavoidable.
In fact, Timothy Duncan, a research chemist from the Food and Drug Administration, admitted as much about the nanotech industry (which likely has thousands of food and food packaging products in the research and development stage) while writing in the journal Nature Nanotechnology last year. “What’s holding back the introduction of nanofoods is the hesitation of the food industry, fearing a public backlash along the lines of what happened with genetically modified foods, and public fears in some countries about tampering with nature,” Duncan wrote.
And considering how little media coverage these larger questions about nanotechnology and food have received – not to mention inclusion on the larger “food movement” laundry list – it looks like the lesson the food industry has learned from GMOs is not one about the importance of transparency, but quite the opposite.

Advertisement
Comments

Science & Technology

This is the world’s first commercial flying car

The world’s first commercial flying car is already on sale. It is equipped with two retractable propellers and rear wings.

The vehicle was presented during the Miami Art Week 2019 by the Dutch company PAL-V International. It is called Liberty, and its price is around 600,000 dollars.

It has Dutch engineering and Italian design, it is already in active production and has at least 70 anticipated.

“As soon as Nicolas Cugnot invented the car and the Wright brothers made their first successful flight, people began to dream of combining the two in a flying car.”

‘It turned out to be more complicated than initially estimated: a complex puzzle. However, once resolved, it would create maximum freedom in mobility’, said the executive director of the company, Robert Dingemanse.

PAL-V Flying car "width =" 780 "height =" 390 "
Credit: pal-v.com

When will it be available?

The first units are expected to reach their owners in 2021. However, it must be borne in mind that to handle it, it is necessary to have not only the driver’s license, but also the pilot’s license.

The new car has two versions, the Pioneer and the sports version. Robert Dingemanse explained that the Pioneer version differs from Liberty by its a complete carbon package. He also revealed that only 90 flying cars will be manufactured in this version.

Features of the flying car

Flying car "width =" 1100 "height =" 619 "srcset ="
PAL-V Pioneer. Credit: pal-v.com
Inside of the flying car "width =" 1104 "height =" 736 "srcset ="
Interior of the flying car. Credit: pal-v.com

The PAL-V, a three-wheeled vehicle that can carry up to two passengers and 20 kilos of cargo, is basically a hybrid between a car and a helicopter.

According to the company website, the PAL-V has a four-cylinder engine and is capable of flying at an altitude of up to 3,500 meters. The vehicle, which is made with carbon fiber, titanium and aluminum and weighs only 664 kilograms, uses gasoline for cars and can reach maximum speeds of 180 km / h in the air and 160 km / h on land.

It also has both a ground and air system similar to that of a motorcycle in which the pilot-driver tilts the machine with a control lever.

It also stands out that the PAL-V converts from car to gyrocopter in just 10 minutes and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km / h in less than 9 seconds.

Continue Reading

Science & Technology

Health authorities have confirmed a case of a rare type of smallpox in a UK patient

Skin rashes caused by ape pox. Credit: CDC's Public Health Image Library (Public domain)

A patient in England has been diagnosed with a rare case of monkeypox, as reported by Public Health England (PHE).

The rare viral infection is similar to smallpox, and though it is milder, it can be fatal.

It has been reported that the individual was in Nigeria and that he would have contracted the disease there. Later, upon returning to the United Kingdom, he stayed in the southwest of England where the disease occurred.

Upon symptoms, he was transferred to the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust , a center specializing in infectious diseases in London.

The health authorities have taken the necessary measures to prevent the virus from spreading to other people.

Vaccination against smallpox to people in Africa. (Public domain)

The PHE said in a statement:

As a precaution, PHE experts are working closely with NHS colleagues to implement rapid infection control procedures, including contact with people who may have been in close contact with the individual to provide health information and advice. ”

But experts are not very worried about contagion, because monkeypox does not spread easily among people and the risk of affecting the population is quite low, said Dr. Meera Chand , PHE consulting microbiologist.

This transmission electron micrograph (TEM) represents a series of smallpox virus virions. Credit: CDC / Dr. Fred Murphy; Sylvia Whitfield / Wikimedia Commons

Although the infection usually occurs mildly and people get better without treatment; Some individuals may develop very serious symptoms, with a percentage of 1 to 10 percent of patients dying from the disease during outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization .

The symptoms presented are similar to those of smallpox but milder. First, fever, headaches, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. Subsequently rashes may appear on the skin , starting on the face and spreading throughout the rest of the body.

This is not the first time a patient has been infected with smallpox in the United Kingdom. In 2018, there were three cases after a person was diagnosed with the disease. The individual had also returned from Nigeria.

Source: Gov.ukIFL Science

Continue Reading

Science & Technology

A cold virus can infect a pregnant woman’s fetus

The study showed that the expectant mother is able to transmit a respiratory tract infection to her unborn child.

Scientists from Tulane University (Louisiana, USA) received the first evidence that the cold virus, which affects a pregnant woman, can penetrate the placenta and infect the fetus. An article about this has been published in PLOS One .

The placenta, an organ that develops in the uterine cavity of a woman during pregnancy, provides the necessary nutrition from the mother to the embryo and simultaneously performs another important task: it filters out potential pathogenic microorganisms. However, a group of pediatricians led by Professor Giovanni Piedimonte found that this natural “barrier” is not so impenetrable.

Scientists took the placenta from donors, isolated three main types of cells – cytotrophoblasts, fibroblasts and Kashchenko – Hofbauer cells – and in vitro exposed them to the human respiratory syncytial virus, which causes respiratory tract infections. Although cytotrophoblast cells supported a weak process of the spread of the virus, two other types were more susceptible to infection. So, Kashchenko-Hofbauer cells survived and allowed the virus to replicate inside the cell walls. According to scientists, then these cells, moving inside the placenta, are able to transmit the virus to the fetus.

“Such cells do not die after they become infected,” Piedimonte explains. – When they enter the fetus, they are comparable to bombs stuffed with a virus. They do not spread the virus in the area of ​​the “explosion”, but carry it through the intercellular channels. <…> Thus, our theory is confirmed that when a woman gets a cold during pregnancy, the virus that causes the infection can pass to the fetus and cause a pulmonary infection before the birth of a child. ”

Pediatricians also suggested that the respiratory syncytial virus is able to infect the lung tissue of the unborn baby and provoke the development of an infection that will subsequently affect the predisposition to asthma. To confirm or refute their theory, the authors of the study intend to conduct clinical tests.

Last year, scientists from the University of Cambridge created an artificial and functional mini-placenta using trophoblasts, and recently it turned out that particles of air pollution can penetrate the placenta of pregnant women

Continue Reading

Recent Comments

Trending