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VeilleNanos - Nanos and Covid-19

Nanos and Covid-19

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Nanos and Covid-19

By the AVICENN team – Last modification August 2022

Promises of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the fight against covid-19

The covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a race against time to find and develop devices for testing, prevention and treatment of the virus. Since the emergence of the pandemic, the scientific and industrial community has been increasingly investing in the use of nanomaterials in the fight against the coronavirus1See for example:
Advances and Perspective on Antimicrobial Nanomaterials for Biomedical Applications, Garg P et al., Front. Nanotechnol., 2022
Nanotechnology versus Covid-19, Régis Barille, The Conversation, 11 February 2021
Application of Nanotechnology in the COVID-19 Pandemic, Yang D, Dove Press, 16: 623-649, January 2021
Pandemic Protection Is Accelerating Investment In Artificial Intelligence And Nanotechnology, Nano, January 2, 2021
Toward Nanotechnology-Enabled Approaches against the COVID-19 Pandemic, Weiss C et al, ACS Nano, 2020
Why Go NANO on COVID-19 Pandemic, Talebian S and Conde J, Matter, 2; 3(3): 598-601, 2020
Nanoscale nights of COVID-19, Kostas Kostarelos, Nature Nanotechnology, April 27, 2020 and comments by Raphaël Lévy (University of Liverpool) on his twitter account
Can Nanotechnology and Materials Science Help the Fight against SARS-CoV-2?“, Sportelli MC et al, MDPI, 21 April 2020
COVID-19 Nanotech Product News March-April 2020
Nano Research for COVID-19, Warren C. W. Chan, ACS Nano, March 31, 2020
Environmental disinfection for coronavirus BBZIX (silver nanoparticles), Zix, Osmayra, March 17, 2020
Issue 60, March 2020: Antiviral and antimicrobial nanocoatings; Antiviral face mask products; Latest nanotech products, graphene news and nanomaterials regulations, March 2020NanotechnologySolutions to Mitigate COVID-19: Detection, Protection, Medication, Frontiers

For example, and without claiming to be exhaustive, we have noted during the first half of 2020 the following applications of nanomaterials aimed at combating covid-19 (under development or already commercialized):

Some of these “promises” were relayed in the press, and even in certain academic journals, without always being fully substantiated12The most extreme example is this “brief”: Chinese scientists have developed a new weapon to combat the coronavirus. They say they have found a nanomaterial that can absorb and deactivate the virus with 96.5-99.9% efficiency, Another example: in Russia, the press reported the development by the Baltic Federal University of innovative protective masks based on silver ions that “have not yet been tested for their ability to resist the new coronavirus, but [dont] there is every reason to believe that the Kaliningrad scientists will also show their effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2” (sic) (cf. Kaliningrad scientists created antiviral masks with silver ions, Planet Today Russia, March 31, 2020).or without necessarily following the classic procedural rules of scientific publications.. This is the case, in particular, of several attempts to promote nano-silver whose effectiveness against covid-19 is scientifically less convincing13 Silver nanoparticles have recognized antibacterial properties, but what about their antiviral activity? However, they are already applied for example on masks sold to fight against covid-19. See in particular note 5 above. than their authors’ interest in the matter14See in particular:
Comment by Raphaël Lévy, April 22, 2020, in response to Formulations for COVID-19 Early Stage Treatment via Silver Nanoparticles Inhalation Delivery at Home and Hospital, Science Open Preprints, March 28, 2020 (not peer-reviewed)
Coronavirus: the miracle cures of the American ultra-right in the sights of the authorities – Alex Jones, the American champion of conspiracy theorists, promotes products based on nanosilver, L’Opinion, 10 April 2020

This does not exclude that nanomaterials can offer effective solutions beyond the laboratory.
However, as for other medical applications, vigilance is required: the toxicity of nanomaterials must not be underestimated and requires appropriate safeguards. The associated health risks and the undesirable effects of their large-scale release into the environment are neither negligible nor systematically assessed. In addition, the questions raised by the recycling or disposal of nano-waste have not been answered to date.

What vigilance in the event of an emergency?

The issues do not arise at the same time and to the same extent for the different nano applications. If the development and control of vaccines or medical treatments necessarily requires a long period of time, the increasing marketing of disinfectants and protective equipment containing nanomaterials (masks or gowns, for example) is more likely to lead to large-scale and short-term exposure of the population and the environment15See for example:
Nanoplastics and other harmful pollutants found within disposable face masks, Swansea University, May 2021 (press release)
An investigation into the leaching of micro and nano particles and chemical pollutants from disposable face masks – linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sullivan GL et al, Water Research, 196, may 2021 (academic publication)

The covid-19 health emergency should not make us forget, or lead us to bypass, all the questions that have long been raised concerning the risks associated with nanoparticles, nanomaterials and nanotechnologies.

In France in particular, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) has been actively communicating on the “nano” subject for a long time16Cf. Biological evaluation of medical devices containing nanomaterials, Ansm, 2011; since then, Ansm has also produced a report on nanomaterials in drugs and medical devices, which, although expected since 2017, has not been published on its website, only on in 2020 (See our page dedicated to nanomedicines). The use of nanomaterials assumes that the expected benefit is significant compared to other solutions, whose toxicity and ecotoxicity are better known. It remains to be seen whether specific surveillance actions are deployed in the current context to protect caregivers, patients and, more broadly, the general population and the environment. As early as 2020, AVICENN started to address this topic with ANSES, ANSM, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the DGCCRF.

In the United States, the government has contacted several companies17At least two companies were initially called out by the FDA for promoting colloidal silver – containing silver nanoparticles – as a way to fight covid-19: Colloidal Vitality LLC/Vital Silver and N-Ergetics) :
Coronavirus Update: FDA and FTC Warn Seven Companies Selling Fraudulent Products that Claim to Treat or Prevent COVID-19, March 9, 2020
F.D.A. Warns 7 Companies to Stop Claiming Silver and Other Products Treat Coronavirus, The New York Times, March 9, 2020
and a famous conspiracy theorist owner of an online sales site to ask them to stop promoting the anti-covid-19 virtues of their products based on, among others, nano-silver18A few months later, more recalls were issued for yet more nanosilver products:
Warning Letter to Natural Solutions Foundation, FDA, May 19, 2020 (Nano Silver 10 PPM)
Warning Letter to Dr. Sherrill Sellman FDA, June 1, 2020 (HealthMax Nano-Silver Liquid)

By virtue of the precautionary principle, research must continue by demonstrating its ability to find (truly) effective solutions but also to control the risks of the projected applications. NGOs and public authorities are not the only ones to call for vigilance and some voices within the scientific community are also trying to do so19Cf. The impact of nanotechnology in the current universal COVID-19 crisis. Let’s not forget nanosafety!Vanessa Valdiglesias & Blanca Laffon, Nanotoxicology, 14(8) :1013-1016, 2020.

Precautionary principle for nanomaterials in masks

The Covid-19 pandemic has also encouraged the supply of antimicrobial and antiviral nano-coatings, especially for oral masks. During 2020 and 2021, various controversies related to the commercialization of potentially toxic masks have highlighted the need to improve the regulatory framework regarding nanomaterials in oral masks, and to favor a precautionary principle over an ex-post risk management.

Silver and copper zeolites in DIM masks

One of these controversies concerns the DIM brand fabric masks treated with silver zeolites and silver-copper zeolites and distributed to teachers and much of the administrative staff as of May 2020. Reporterre alerted on their potential toxicity which led the Ministry of Labour and Education to suspend the distribution of DIM masks as a precaution. Anses was asked to estimate the potential risks associated with wearing washable fabric masks treated with these two active substances and concluded urgently that “in the real conditions of wearing these treated masks, health risks cannot be excluded“.

Removal of masks containing TiO2 and silver nanoparticles

In Belgium, a similar event took place, when the Belgian government distributed free masks in June 2020 that were later found to be potentially toxic. Indeed, on February 23, 2021, the Belgian press revealed that a report (then confidential but later made public) by the Belgian health institute Sciensano showed that the masks distributed by the government in 2020 contained silver and titanium dioxide nanoparticles. On the basis of the opinion of the Conseil supérieur de la santé (CSS) and as a precautionary measure, the authorities have recommended20These recommendations remain valid, following the August 26, 2021, release by the HSC of a risk assessment of cloth mouth masks treated with a silver-based biocide, pending the results of further study (ongoing, conducted by Sciensano and VITO). not to distribute or wear them anymore.

Given the increasing commercialization of masks treated with virucidal agents, the Belgium Research Institute Sciensano launched the AgMask project in 2020 to assess the types, efficacy, and health risks of silver-based biocides used in masks21Initial results were published in 2021, detailing the use of titanium dioxide and silver nanoparticles in Avrox masks. In early February 2023, researchers from the Belgian research institute Sciensano published in the journal Science of the Total Environment the analyses of a research project initiated in 2020, in which they call for further regulation of biocide application on masks and increased research into potential health and environmental risks. Another publication, released in July 2023, evaluates the release of silver-based biocides and TiO2 particles present in masks..

Removal of masks containing graphene

Silver and titanium dioxide nanoparticles are not the only substances used as biocidal coatings. Graphene, for example, attracted interest from some manufacturers for its antiviral properties and has been incorporated into many masks without sufficient evaluation of potential health impacts. The timeline below shows how graphene masks from Chinese manufacturer Shandong Shengquan triggered a cascade of recalls in Canada and Europe.

Chronology of graphene mask recalls

A risk assessment is reportedly underway by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). To be followed up…

A regulation that takes time

At the end of 2020, the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) issued a statement concluding that “as the benefit of virucidal/antiviral treatment of masks has not yet been proven and their safety has not been verified by the authorities, the BAuA refrains from recommending the use of such masks”22Cf. Can we wear nose covers and other virucidal / antiviral masks without hesitation?BAuA, December 1, 2021.

However, in January 2021, in response to the increasing marketing of masks coated with a virucidal treatment, Avicenn, together with twelve other European NGOs, published a letter online23Cf. Open letter to ECHA, AVICENN, HCWH, HEAL, CIEL, EEB, …, 20 January 2021 requesting clarifications from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) on the regulatory framework and risk management measures in place at the European level on these issues. ECHA’s response, dated 10 February24Cf. Reply to letter from HCWH Europe, ECHA, 10 February 2021 confirmed that the control of compliance with the Biocides Regulation falls within the responsibility of the Member States and emphasized that only two active substances, used as disinfectants or preservatives, are currently authorized on a nano scale (silver for product types 2, 5 and 9 and silver adsorbed on silicon dioxide for product type 9).

On February 19, 2021, in its online post, the NGO Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) reiterated the findings made earlier: the regulation of articles treated with nano/biocides does not follow the rate of development of new products and does not guarantee their safety25Is the regulation of nano/biocide-treated articles sufficient to protect health and environment? HCWH, February 19, 2021.. NGOs are still seeking clarifications of some confusing regulatory issues and more information on market surveillance by Member States.

This regulation changes on August 24, 2021, when the European Commission decided on the non-approval of silver as a nanomaterial for product types 2, 4 and 9. This decision, disapproving nanosilver as a biocide in fiber, leather, rubber and polymerized materials protection products, follows various controversies of marketing and use of nanosilver in oral masks.

In addition, in a notice to operators published on June 10, 2021, the DGCCRF and ANSM reminded us of a few essential points to consider before placing surgical masks on the market.

Sorting out the true from the false regarding nanoparticles in vaccines and tests

As part of its monitoring of social networks, the association AVICENN has noticed, since the Covid-19 crisis, a very significant increase in concerns and fake news26See for example:
Overview of tweets with the keywords #nanoparticles and #5G
Can Covid PCR tests be a way to surreptitiously infect or implant people, Sott, August 20, 2020 → Alexandra Henrion-Caude’s comments about, among other things, nanoparticles are scientifically flawed:
“Coronavirus : why PCR tests need to go deep inside the nose”, Le Monde, July 9, 2020
Virus manipulated by humans, danger of masks… (nanoparticles in the swabs of PCR tests) Inserm disassociates itself from one of its ex-researchers, LCI, 5 October 2020
PCR tests don’t reach “cribriform plaque” and are more effective than salivary tests, AFP, 24 December 2020
5G, nanoparticles, Covid-19 “patents”… A viral video multiplies fake news, LCI, August 25, 2020
alerting on the allegedly deliberate use of nanoparticles in vaccines (and in a more limited way, in autumn 2020, in PCR tests), whose “hidden” purpose would be to trace, even enslave or eliminate part of the population (with 5G technology sometimes invoked as a tool for remote activation).

How can you tell the real from the fake? If some fact-checking efforts are made27See for example:
Do we really find nanoparticles in Pfizer’s vaccine? Thomas Deszpot, LCI, February 17, 2021: “Some Internet users point out that Pfizer’s vaccines contain nanoparticles, which would give reason to whistleblowers accused of conspiracy. If their presence is real, their role is totally misunderstood.
Covid-19: Can vaccines change DNA? Can nanoparticles in the vaccine be used to “track” citizens via 5G?Bruno Pitard, CNRS research director and Inserm researcher at the Nantes-Angers immunology research center, France Culture, January 20, 2021
Conspiracy theories: could it be possible to embed nano-chips in a vaccine, Trust my science, 20 January 2021
RNA vaccines contain dangerous nanoparticles? FakeLe Détecteur de rumeurs, Science Presse (Canada), December 29, 2020 and
Nanoparticles and vaccines against Covid-19: five questions to disentangle the true from the false, Assma Maad, Le Monde, 11 December 2020; to be completed by reading the following article: Pfizer’s COVID vaccine contains a compound that may be responsible for rare allergic reactions, Trust my science, December 30, 2020 (see article in English: Suspicions grow that nanoparticles in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trigger rare allergic reactions, Jop de Vrieze, Science, December 21, 2020)
PCR tests don’t reach “cribriform plaque” and are more effective than salivary tests, AFP, 24 December 2020
Nanotechnologies at the heart of the conspiracy – Why the nanoparticle has found its way into all the conspiracies, Xavier de La Porte, Podcast Le Code a changé, France Inter, 8 December 2020
Will a tracking device (nanoparticles) be present in any of the new vaccines, Quora, November – December 2020
Virus manipulated by humans, danger of masks… (nanoparticles in the swabs of PCR tests) Inserm disassociates itself from one of its ex-researchers, LCI, 5 October 2020
Covid-19 and conspiracy Arte, September 8, 2020
5G, nanoparticles, Covid-19 “patents”… A viral video multiplies fake news, LCI, August 25, 2020
COVID-19 and 5G: researchers show how this fake news spread around the world, RTBF, August 9, 2020
Coronavirus : why PCR tests need to go to the bottom of the nose, Le Monde, July 9, 2020
5G waves responsible for Covid-19 pandemic, really? Canal Détox, INSERM, April 15, 2020
Are vaccines ‘contaminated with toxic nanoparticles’, Le Monde, 19 July 2017
and are necessary28See in particular:
When mistrust supplants science, Jean-Philippe Dubrulle, Fondation Jean Jaurès, 1 February 2021
Hearing of Messrs. Patrick Berche, Alain Fischer and Patrick Netter, members of the French National Academy of Medicine, on vaccines against covid-19, by Mr. Cédric Villani, MP, President of the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological OptionsOPECST, November 19, 2020
, are these efforts having the required impact29See Fact-checking – Contested effectiveness, Wikipedia? In any case, the lipidic nanoparticles present in the vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and Novavax in particular have the sole function of encapsulating and protecting the messenger RNA or carrying the antigen to the cells.

That being said, there is still a real need for a response from the health authorities concerning the older and more legitimate questions about the presence and safety of nanoparticles – mainly metal – potentially present in some other classic” vaccines by non-voluntary contamination or in vaccines under development (with or without a link to covid-19). The inability to inform and communicate about the issues surrounding a new and complex technology can fuel suspicions and fantasies.

In July 2021, another rumor, widely shared on social networks, claimed that graphene would be present in the Pfizer vaccine. After examination, it turns out that it is not based on any serious fact30See in particular:
In French :
Covid-19 vaccine: Beware, these videos do not show “graphene”, France 24, 3 August 2021
Vaccination: no, “Spanish researchers” have not shown that Pfizer “contains an unknown product”, LCI, July 8, 2021Disinfox Covid-19: no, no study proves that Pfizer vaccine contains graphene, Le Progrès, July 15, 2021
In English:
Fact-checking – Pfizer vaccine does not contain graphene oxide, Associated Press, July 8, 2021.

To be continued…

More on Nanos & Covid-19

Elsewhere on the web:

In French:

In English:

Any questions or comments? This information sheet compiled by AVICENN is intended to be completed and updated. Please feel free to contribute.

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This sheet was originally created in March 2020

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