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Your Environment. Your Health.

Inhalation of Nanoparticles from Cosmetics

Paul J. Lioy, Ph.D., Gediminas Mainelis, Ph.D.
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey
NIEHS Grant P30ES005022


Nanoparticles from cosmetic powders can be inhaled and deposited in the upper airways, according to a new study from NIEHS-funded researchers. Although studies have looked at the toxicology of pure nanomaterials, very few have examined exposure during actual use of products containing nanomaterials.


The researchers studied six cosmetic powders, three of which were identified by the manufacturer as containing nanoparticles. Analysis, with transmission electron microscopy and laser diffraction spectroscopy, revealed that five of the six products contained nanoparticles. The investigators simulated exposure to the powders by applying them to a mannequin’s face while sampling airborne particles through ports in the mannequin’s nostrils.


The study results showed that someone using these cosmetic powders would be exposed to nanomaterials that were mostly clustered into agglomerates, or attached to larger particles. In this form, the nanomaterials would deposit in the upper airways, rather than the alveolar region of the lung, as would be expected from the size of the primary nanoparticles. Upper airway deposition could lead to different health effects than those found in nanoparticle toxicology studies for the alveolar region.


Citation: Nazarenko Y, Zhen H, Han T, Lioy PJ, Mainelis G. 2012. Potential for inhalation exposure to engineered nanoparticles from nanotechnology-based cosmetic powders. Environ Health Perspect 120(6):885-892.

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