What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is a field of science and technology that involves the manipulation of matter at a very small scale, the nanoscale. At the nanoscale (where 1 nanometre is only a billionth of a metre) matter exhibits chemical and physical properties which differ from the properties of bulk materials and single atoms or molecules. To better understand nanoscale, consider that a strand of human hair is about 75,000 nanometres wide, while a red blood cell is about 7,200 nanometres wide.

By working at this scale, scientists are developing a wide array of materials known as nanomaterials. These nanomaterials are now being used in a wide range of applications. In the health sector, the applications of nanotechnology impact new natural health products, medical devices, drugs and drug delivery systems, and diagnostic devices for detection and treatment of illnesses. In the food sector, nanomaterials could be used in food production, processing, preservation and packaging. Nanomaterials also find application in a variety of consumer products such as, office supplies (e.g. printer inks, batteries), personal care products (e.g. cosmetics and sunscreens), and other personal items such as electronics and sports equipment and workplace products (e.g. paints and coating).

Health Canada regulates a range of products and substances, some of which may either contain or be nanomaterials, including:

In addition, the National Office of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System operates through Health Canada to promote the safety of workers who handle nanomaterials and products containing nanomaterials.

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