Extremely small nanoscale particles are released by common household appliances in much larger amounts than previously suspected, according to America's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The microscopic 'ultrafine particles' (UFP) range in size from 2 to 10 nanometers

Nanoscale particles have attracted attention because of increasing evidence that they can cause neurological, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

Researchers at NIST used new measuring techniques that allowed them to track the tiniest - and possibly most dangerous - particles for the first time.

Cooking up a scare

They found that the biggest producers of UFP were electric and gas cooker burners and rings, with toaster ovens and ovens close behind.

Next on NIST's hit list are small appliances containing electric heating elements motors, which are known to produce UFPs. This includes hair driers, steam irons and almost all electric power tools.

Sounds like a great excuse to avoid doing any household chores to us: "I can't do the ironing today, love, my brain is allergic to nanotechnology."