Tiny Bits of Silver, Used As Bacteria-Eaters, Emerge As New Health Concern
By RAE TYSON
Stinky socks may be socially embarrassing, but aren’t in the same league as other pressing environmental issues. On the other hand, there may well be a connection between odor-resistant socks and an emerging health and environmental concern.
Scientists, environmentalists and regulators alike are increasingly concerned about nanosilver — microscopic particles that are now used for bacterial control in well over 1,000 consumer products. These include toys, cosmetics, sunscreen, air and water filters, household cleaners, clothing and washing machines. One increasingly common use of nanosilver is in athletic socks to minimize offensive smells.
Though research is inconclusive, scientists have found evidence that nanosilver, once in the environment — most commonly in wastewater effluent — can potentially bioaccumulate in organisms such as earthworms, insects and fish. Studies also suggest that nanoparticles in soil can harm plants.