The Food and Drug Administration will hold a public meeting in the fall of 2006 to gather information about current developments in the use of nanotechnology materials in FDA-regulated products, including drugs, foods, cosmetics, and medical devices. FDA-regulated products account for about 25 cents of every dollar spent each year by U.S. consumers.
Nanotechnology involves the manufacture and manipulation of materials at the molecular or atomic level. At that scale, materials are measured in nanometers or billionths of a meter. Nanoscale materials are generally less than 100 nanometers in diameter. A sheet of paper, in comparison, is 100,000 nanometers thick.
The FDA announcement comes as officials with Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment continue to probe 97 cases of intoxication, some of them severe, in people who had used a recently introduced aerosol cleaning product called ''Magic Nano.''
The product, which is not sold in the United States, has since been withdrawn from sale in Germany. Officials there said they assume inhalation of the aerosol droplets caused the respiratory problems, but that they cannot rule out whether the nano particles it contains also contributed.
''These incidents have demonstrated that the introduction of new technologies in consumer products must be coupled with an assessment of the possible risks arising from their use. It is incumbent on science to communicate this message to consumers as well,'' Institute president Andreas Hensel said in a statement.
The FDA said the October meeting would help alert the agency to any scientific issues about nanotechnology.
Nano materials, because of their special properties, can pose different safety issues than their larger-sized counterparts, the FDA said.