Columbia, MO—As certain types of synthetic nanoparticles have made their way into applications from water treatment to food packaging to pesticides over the past few years, a debate has ensued over the potential for contamination, and the health risks to humans in case it does occur. A recent study at the University of Missouri confirmed the presence of potentially toxic silver nanoparticles in pears and, in doing so, established a viable method for detecting such particles in food.

Farmers use these silver nanoparticles as pesticides because of their insecticidal and antimicrobial properties, according to the study’s authors. To study the residue and penetration of these particles on pear skin, they immersed the fruit in a particle solution that mimicked the application of a pesticide. Four days after being repeatedly washed and rinsed, the pears still had nanoparticle residue attached and smaller particle varieties had penetrated into the fruit.

“The penetration of silver nanoparticles is dangerous to consumers because they have the ability to relocate in the human body after digestion,” said researcher Mengshi Lin in a release about the study. After being ingested, nanoparticles can pass into the blood and lymph system, circulating through the body and potentially infiltrating organs including the spleen, brain, liver and heart.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2013