Everywhere you turn, you see ads for products that kill germs. As parents, we're taught that if we don't fear germs and take every step to eradicate them, then we are failing at our job to keep kids safe. But what if the products we're using to kill these germs are more harmful to our kids than the germs themselves?

This is the case with silver nanoparticles. Silver has long been recognized as a powerful antimicrobial — or germ killer. In recent years, silver nanoparticles — ultra-small particles with diameters less than 100 nanometers — have been embedded in everything from clothing to bandages in an effort to kill germs. Many air sanitizers and personal care products also contain these nanoparticles.

But a new study published in Toxicological Sciences has found that silver nanoparticles can interrupt important cell signaling within male reproductive sperm cells, effectively causing them to stop growing.  

The study raises important questions about potential effects of these antimicrobials on male fertility, because silver nanoparticles are currently used in a wide range of products. Scientists are also concerned about the potential effects that could occur should a pregnant mom be exposed to silver nanoparticles during her pregnancy because small silver particles can cross a mom's placenta and directly affect her baby. Thus, prenatal exposure may affect forming sperm cells and lead to birth defects related to the male reproductive system.