In an article published on July 1, 2013 in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives Nate Seltenrich, science and environment journalist, reviews the risks and benefits of nanosilver. On the backdrop of a current case of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stakeholders concede that the context is key to judging whether the benefits outweigh the risks. In the aforementioned case the NRDC argues that the EPA’s failure to account for the chewing of fabric by infants invalidates EPA’s risk assessment of the use of nanosilver as an antimicrobial fabric treatment.
Nanosilver is used as an antimicrobial in a wide range of consumer products, such as textiles, cosmetics, paints and food containers. While nanosilver is authorized for the use in plastic food containers in the U.S., nanosilver may not be used in plastic food contact materials in the E.U..
According to Seltenrich, there is a strong incentive to develop new antimicrobial approaches as antibiotic resistance increases. Yet, with the increased dispersion of nanosilver there is also a need to consider gradual nanosilver abrasion from products and the risk of nanosilver resistance in bacteria. Yet, Rosalind Volpe, executive director of the Silver Nanotechnology Working Group, questions whether the increase in environmental concentrations is relevant. She states that overall nanosilver represents only a minor component of overall silver production and silver volumes in the environment. Samuel Luoma, an emeritus researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey, argues that environmental surveillance is a “critical requirement for a future risk management strategy”.