A nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter, and nanotechnology means working with materials less than 100 nanometers in size. Nanomaterials are currently being used in many products due to improved performance, for example:
1) nanostructures improve the performance of computers and other electronics
2) antibacterial treatment of sportswear
3) carbon nanotubes improve the strength of lightweight materials such as racquets, bike frames and wind turbines
However, when materials are converted to nano-form, their physical, chemical and biological properties often are fundamentally modified and consequently, the effects of these substances on human health and the environment may also change radically. Nanotechnology is still a relatively new field and even though nanomaterials are used in everyday products, the potential harmful effects of using nanotechnology are not fully understood. Recent research has shown that certain nano-materials may be harmful to aquatic species and may be carcinogenic.
The Danish Consumer Council and the Danish Ecological Council have created a nano database (http://nano.taenk.dk/) that will help consumers identify more than 1,200 products that may contain nanomaterials.