The makeup, sunscreen and clothing and that you wear every single day could possibly be damaging your DNA, according to a new study from MIT. Nanoparticles like zinc oxide and nanoscale silver, used by manufacturers to kill microbes, extend shelf life or enhance texture, have been shown to be toxic to cells. These particles produce free radicals which can accumulate in the body and cause harm to DNA.
MIT and the Harvard School of Public Health conducted research using a high-speed screening technology – a new technology that enables scientists to study nanoparticles better than ever – to analyze DNA damage. In their paper, published in ACS Nano, they found that five engineered nanoparticles – silver, zinc oxide, iron oxide, cerium oxide and silicone dioxide – can cause significant damage to cells. To make things worse, the FDA doesn’t require any testing on nanoparticles for safety if the bulk material has been proven safe. That means that the nanoscale silver used in children’s toys, toothpaste and healthcare products to kill bacteria may actually be harming your cells instead.
Zinc oxide, commonly used in sunscreen, and silver post the greatest risk to the body, but scientists say that there is still more investigation needed to figure out how much exposure to any of these particles is safe and at what level of exposure do things become dangerous for the body. Scientists also want to look into other nanoparticles, such as those in photocopier toner, to determine if they pose a similar risk.