Silver and silver compounds release silver ions that can inhibit the growth of germs. They’re used, for instance, in cosmetics, textiles and household appliances, as well a dye for food. Recently, manufacturers of consumer products have been increasingly using silver in the form of nanoparticles (particles with a diameter of less than 100 nanometres). The properties of nanoparticles differ from those of larger particles of the same substance. It is these special properties that make them interesting for various applications. However, it has still to be ascertained whether their toxic properties change, and they could become a health risk for consumers.
Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) feels there is a need for research to elucidate the fundamental issues in conjunction with the use of nanoscale silver as an antimicrobial material. It is not possible at the present time to determine in a definitive manner whether nanosilver constitutes a health risk for consumers. “Until we are in a position to reliably rule out potential health risks, we recommend that manufacturers refrain from using nanosilver in consumer products,” says BfR president Professor Dr. Andreas Hensel.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the remit of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the federal government and federal Länder on all aspects of food, chemical and product safety, and also undertakes research of its own on topics that are closely related to its assessment tasks.