Zinc Oxide, a chemical commonly used in consumer products can potentially cause cancer, a new study has suggested.
According to a study led by a group of researchers from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Zinc Oxide is used to absorb harmful ultra violet light, but when it is turned into nano-sized particles, they are able to enter human cells and may damage the user’s DNA.
This in turn activates a protein called p53, whose duty is to prevent damaged cells from multiplying and becoming cancerous. However, cells that lack p53 or do not produce enough functional p53 may instead develop into cancerous cells when they come into contact with Zinc Oxide nanoparticles.
Joachim Loo and Ng Kee Woei from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering worked with Assistant Professor David Leong from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore, a joint senior author of this research paper.
The findings of the study suggest that companies may need to reassess the health impact of nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles used in everyday products. More studies are also needed on the use and concentration levels of nanomaterials in consumer products, how often a consumer uses them and in what quantities.
“Currently there is a lack of information about the risks of the nanomaterials used in consumer products and what they can pose to the human body. This study points to the need for further research in this area and we hope to work with the relevant authorities on this,” Loo said.
According to Kee Woei, the team will carry out further research as the DNA damage brought about by nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles is currently a result of an unknown mechanism. But what is clear is that besides causing DNA damage, nanoparticles can also cause other harmful effects when used in high doses.
“From our studies, we found that nanoparticles can also increase stress levels in cells, cause inflammation or simply kill cells,” Kee Woei said.
The study has been published in Biomaterials.