Children’s toys coated with antimicrobial silver nanoparticles and bicycle tires spiked with grip-improving carbon nanotubes are among the more than 1600 consumer products logged in the Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory (CPI). The free online database (http://www.nanotechproject.org/cpi), which lists products claiming to contain nanomaterials, was created in 2005 by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, based in Washington, DC. At the end of its first year, the CPI contained 54 products. Back then, “most people talked about such products in the future tense,” says Wilson Center researcher Todd Kuiken. “We wanted to show what already existed.”

In the intervening years, the database grew, and it began to be criticized for not containing scientifically useful data. The CPI’s intended purpose was to stimulate discussion on the emergence of nanotechnology in commerce, but people were “misusing the information in the media and in peer-reviewed literature to make safety and toxicity...

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