Though nanotechnology—relying on microscopic components—is common in many industries, scientists and consumers are worrying about the effects of nanoparticles in cosmetics, the New York Times reports. The fear is that the particles—50,000 times thinner than hair—can penetrate the skin and create havoc in our organs. Extensive safety tests haven’t been performed, and the FDA launched an ongoing nanomaterials study 2 years ago.
The tiny bits come with their benefits, and some say the “nanophobes” are too alarmist. Nanosilver, for example, can dive into skin pores and clean them. But its size also lets it travel farther in blood vessels. “Especially if the nanoparticles are indestructible and accumulate and are not metabolized,” one scientist warns, “if you accumulate them in the organs, the organs could fail.”