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May 24, 2011

SNWG Responds to BfR’s Statement Concerning Nanosilver

Lynn L. Bergeson

The Silver Nanotechnology Working Group (SNWG) prepared a May 2, 2011, statement regarding the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment’s (BfR) April 12, 2011, statement concerning consumer products containing nanosilver. SNWG notes that, in December 2009, BfR published an opinion advising against the use of nanosilver in consumer products. Industry and other groups, including SNWG, asked BfR to reconsider its position, and BfR held a workshop on February 17, 2011, on nanosilver. SNWG states that, despite BfR’s assurance that follow-up dialogue would occur after the workshop, BfR instead issued its April 12, 2011, statement, which restated BfR’s initial opinion.  According to SNWG, BfR has “essentially ignore[d] the facts presented to BfR during the workshop.” SNWG reviews BfR’s concerns regarding nanosilver — the use of silver aims to replace normal hygiene measures, the potential for bacterial resistance from silver, and claims of unusual effects of nanosilver — and addresses each. SNWG highlights the benefits to consumers from antimicrobial products, including longer shelf-life and protection from the degrading action and colonization of bacteria. SNWG notes that BfR disregarded multiple references regarding the low risk of resistance to silver and wrongly singled out nanosilver to address a concern about silver resistance in general. Finally, SNWG rebuts BfR’s assumptions concerning the use of silver and nanosilver, and concludes that the “mode of action is therefore not unusual in comparison to other silver forms employed in the marketplace or used throughout history.” SNWG describes additional issues of concern regarding BfR’s position on nanosilver, including its misunderstanding of materials and history; the selective harm to small- and medium-sized enterprises; and its preemption of the European Union regulatory process.