Nanocellulose refers to cellulose in the nanometre scale and is a material derived from natural materials including plants and bacteria. But it can also be produced from sugars through biotechnological processes using bacteria that give the product its’ final name – bacterial nanocellulose. Production processes in the 1980’s were energy-intensive, but substantial progress has been made in recent times to reduce these energy costs associated with nanocellulose production. Today, various commercial applications for nanocellulose exist. For example, treatment of wood and hardboard is done with nanocellulose and it functions as barrier material in food packaging materials. Hygiene products for medical applications contain nanocellulose due to its capacity to store large amounts of water. In dietary supplements nanocellulose is used as a thickening agent and stabiliser.
How can I come into contact with this material?
Nanocellulose can directly come into contact with the human skin (dermal uptake) because of its use in medical implants or in wound care applications. Nanocellulose or cellulose nanoparticles can also be swallowed (oral uptake) when used in dietary supplements.
Is there any risk from this material to humans and the environment?
Nanocellulose is considered to be non-toxic and causes no rejection reactions in the body. There are no existing safety concerns for nanocellulose as dietary supplements, although it has been found that the intestinal wall is permeable to this material. Research has shown that only very high concentrations of nanocellulose are able to affect cell growth.
Humans regularly get in contact with nanocellulose through various sources like hygiene products. But there are no known health and safety concerns resulting from the use of nanocellulose containing products.
By the way…
- Ordinary cellulose is permitted without a limit on food (E460).