Evaluation of the Genotoxicity of Chitosan Nanoparticles for Use in Food Packaging Films
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The use of nanoparticles in food packaging has been proposed on the basis that it could improve protection of foods by, for example, reducing permeation of gases, minimizing odor loss, and increasing mechanical strength and thermal stability. Consequently, the impacts of such nanoparticles on organisms and on the environment need to be investigated to ensure their safe use. In an earlier study, Moura and others (2008a) described the effect of addition of chitosan (CS) and poly(methacrylic acid) (PMAA) nanoparticles on the mechanical properties, water vapor, and oxygen permeability of hydroxypropyl methylcellulose films used in food packaging. Here, the genotoxicity of different polymeric CS/PMAA nanoparticles (size 60, 82, and 111 nm) was evaluated at different concentration levels, using the Allium cepa chromosome damage test as well as cytogenetic tests employing human lymphocyte cultures. Test substrates were exposed to solutions containing nanoparticles at polymer mass concentrations of 1.8, 18, and 180 mg/L. Results showed no evidence of DNA damage caused by the nanoparticles (no significant numerical or structural changes were observed), however the 82 and 111 nm nanoparticles reduced mitotic index values at the highest concentration tested (180 mg/L), indicating that the nanoparticles were toxic to the cells used at this concentration. In the case of the 60 nm CS/PMAA nanoparticles, no significant changes in the mitotic index were observed at the concentration levels tested, indicating that these particles were not toxic. The techniques used show promising potential for application in tests of nanoparticle safety envisaging the future use of these materials in food packaging.