A new report has warned that carbon nanotubes may pose a similar health risk to asbestos.
Tests on mice suggest that exposure to carbon nanotubes could lead to cancer of the lining of the lungs.
Nature Nanotechnology journal said inhalation of carbon nanotubes by mice led to inflammation and lesions.
In 2005, BikeBiz.com reported on a similar health alert, raised at the International Congress of Nanotechnology in San Francisco.
The authors of the new report said: "Research and business communities continue to invest heavily in carbon nanotubes for a wide range of products under the assumption that they are no more hazardous than graphite.
"Our results suggest the need for further research and great caution before introducing such products into the market if long-term harm is to be avoided."
Inhalation of carbon nanotubes would be at the source of manufacture, not in finished items. Should the research prove to be accurate there would be health and safety implications for those companies – mostly in the Far East – which manufacture with carbon nanotubes.
The scientific report behind the current story is an ‘advance publication’ story, it has yet to appear in the paper journal.
‘Carbon nanotubes introduced into the abdominal cavity of mice show asbestos-like pathogenicity in a pilot study’ was authored by scientists at MRC/University of Edinburgh, School of Materials, University of Manchester, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, Institute of Occupational Medicine, Edinburgh and School of Life Sciences, Edinburgh.
The report abstract says:
Carbon nanotubes have distinctive characteristics, but their needle-like fibre shape has been compared to asbestos, raising concerns that widespread use of carbon nanotubes may lead to mesothelioma, cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.
Here we show that exposing the mesothelial lining of the body cavity of mice, as a surrogate for the mesothelial lining of the chest cavity, to long multiwalled carbon nanotubes results in asbestos-like, length-dependent, pathogenic behaviour. This includes inflammation and the formation of lesions known as granulomas. This is of considerable importance, because research and business communities continue to invest heavily in carbon nanotubes for a wide range of products5 under the assumption that they are no more hazardous than graphite. Our results suggest the need for further research and great caution before introducing such products into the market if long-term harm is to be avoided.