Nanotechnology Project


A Statement about the PEN Consumer Products Inventory and Titanium Dioxide

There has been much confusion and misinformation in recent weeks about our Consumer Products Inventory (CPI). Much of this confusion was sparked by a recent report from Friends of the Earth (FOE) on nanoscale materials in food, as well as news articles from Mother Jones and other outlets focused in on the use of nanoscale titanium dioxide in food products.

Much of this confusion could have been avoided if the authors of the FOE report and subsequent journalists would have contacted PEN. All of the products discussed in these stories included a classification of Category 5 on the CPI. The CPI categories indicate our level of confidence in the claims and a Category 5 claim is the lowest confidence level. The description of Category 5 claim reads, “Nanotechnology claim is provided by source other than manufacturer. Typically a news story, or third-party stores selling the product.”

Andrew Maynard, one of our former colleagues and a co-founder of the CPI, deftly summarizes the situation in a recent piece posted on The Conversation. (Maynard is now director of the University of Michigan’s Risk Science Center.)

The CPI “provides a useful but only qualitative sense of what was being used where, and relies on intermittent web searches and other sources of intelligence,” Maynard writes. “The inventory was never meant to be comprehensive or authoritative.”

Admitting that health journalism can be a “tricky business,” Maynard urges caution for journalists reporting on these issues. “They are right to highlight genuine issues, but the least they can do is get experts to weigh in on the debate,” he writes. “Simply basing a report on a one-sided view, which most scientists wouldn’t even agree on, is poor journalism.” The entire piece can be read here.

Further questions about the CPI can be directed to Aaron Lovell at (202) 691-4320 or