The issue

Nanotechnology is a powerful emerging technology for engineering nature at the atomic and molecular level. Nanoparticles are infinitesimally small, about 1000 times thinner than a human hair.  At this scale, familiar substances change in ways that scientists may not expect or predict, presenting new toxicity risks. A growing body of scientific data suggests that nanoparticles can be harmful to our health and to the environment.

Nanomaterials are now being used in hundreds of consumer products, from toys to clothes to toothpaste. These new products are being commercialized largely outside of public view or debate and with few regulations to protect workers, the public and the environment.

As just one example of potential concerns, studies indicate that manufactured nanomaterials used in sunscreens have the potential to harm our health. When we shower or swim, the nanoparticles in sunscreens end up in our water systems -- these substances could damage microbes that are helpful to ecosystems and could be absorbed up the food chain from smaller to larger organisms.

What we’re doing

Friends of the Earth is pushing policymakers in the U.S. and internationally to apply a precautionary approach to the regulation of nanotechnology by putting the health of people and the environment before corporate profits. We are also advocating for mandatory labeling of products that contain nanomaterials so that consumers can make informed decisions.

Friends of the Earth has published several groundbreaking reports on the prevalence and risks of nanomaterials to inform public debate and government solutions, and we work with a variety of partners around the world to monitor the increasing use of this technology and advance common principles for government oversight. We joined over 70 groups from six continents to endorse a guiding document called "Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials."

Learn more


"Nanoparticles in baby formula" report cover with baby drinking milk.

Nanoparticles in baby formula: Tiny new ingredients are a big concern

Unbeknownst to the general public, popular infant formulas sold throughout the United States contain infinitesimally small ingredients known as engineered nanoparticles. A growing body of scientific research demonstrates that nanoparticles pose threats to human health, raising concerns about their use in food and many other consumer products.

Tiny ingredients, big risk report cover image of hexagons, a child eating macaroni and cheese, glazed donuts and cherry tomatoes

Tiny Ingredients, big risks: Nanomaterials rapidly entering food and farming

This report documents a tenfold increase in unregulated, unlabeled nano-ingredients in food products from major companies.

Report cover image of microscopic nano-silver

Nano-silver: Policy failure puts public health at risk

This report makes the case that overuse of nano-silver as an antimicrobial in an increasing array of consumer products may harm the public.

Report cover image of a steam stack with dodecahedrons

Nanotechnology, climate and energy: Over-heated promises and hot air?

This groundbreaking report rigorously examines claims that nanotechnology will allow for continued economic growth and resource use while minimizing environmental impacts, showing that to date nanotechnology has failed to make good on these promises.

Report cover image of a lab technician in a white coat measuring chemicals over a large red apple

Out of the laboratory and onto our plates: Nanotechnology in food & agriculture

This report finds that untested nanotechnology is being used in more than 100 food products, food packaging and contact materials currently on the shelf, without warning or FDA testing.

Report cover image of a woman applying cosmetics surrounded by microscopic nanomaterials

Nanomaterials, Sunscreens and Cosmetics: Small Ingredients, Big Risks

Corporations around the world are rapidly introducing thousands of tons of nanomaterials into the environment and onto the faces and hands of millions of people, despite the growing body of evidence indicating that nanomaterials can be toxic to humans and the environment.

Report cover image of a beach with a beach chair and umbrella under blue sky

Manufactured nanomaterials and sunscreens: Top reasons for precaution

Nanomaterials are already being used (unlabeled) in hundreds of consumer products including sunscreens and cosmetics. This report explains why this is reason for concern.

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