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The health ministry has started researching potential toxicity risks of molecular substances increasingly used in a broad range of products, from information technology devices to cosmetics, ministry officials said Saturday.

“At this stage, it is not that problems have surfaced,” said an official at the chemical substance safety measures office in the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. “We would like to prepare ahead of them being used widely in daily life.”

The research team will establish risk assessment methods and investigate how they would be absorbed or whether they are toxic over a period of three years through experiments on animals and other initiatives, the officials said.

A similar research project has been under way on those substances at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry since the beginning of this fiscal year. The market for those “nano” substances could grow to be worth 27 trillion yen in 10 years, according to one estimate.

The research concerns those molecular and atomic-scale substances that measure less than one-10,000th millimeter. They include metals and carbons such as titanium dioxide, alumina and carbon nanotubes.

They have helped make semiconductors more compact and PC displays thinner as well as help cosmetics penetrate the human skin or make sports gear more durable.

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