Last week, an FDA task force issued a report basically stating that the agency needs to be better versed in nanotechnology to ensure that the deluge of products using some derivation of it now and in the future will actually be safe. Though the term nanotechnology often conjures science fiction visions of swarms of tiny machines carrying out complex tasks, this is already a concern today. There are plenty of simpler nanotech-based products already on the market.

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies has been compiling a list of these, and it’s interesting to take a look, to get an idea of the breadth of applications, including cosmetics, food, sunscreens and animal feed. Thankfully, the Project also points out which supposedly nanotech-based products are really just marketing stunts.

Sunscreens using nanoscale particles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are a good example of the tough questions these new products pose. In this case, the issue is whether these tiny particles can penetrate the skin and have far-off effects in other parts of the body. Let’s hope the FDA starts figuring out the answers soon.—Gregory Mone