Certain Types Of Carbon Nanotubes May Lead To Cancer


Specific types of nanotubes, or cylindrical carbon molecules, were studied to see if they have the potential to cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining that can take 30-40 years to appear following exposure of asbestos. Research findings showed that long, thin multi-walled carbon nanotubes that look like asbestos fibers, behave like asbestos fibers.

The study showed that exposure of the mesothelial lining of the body cavity of mice to long multi-walled carbon nanotubes results in asbestos-like, pathogenic behavior. The exposure led to the mice developing inflammation and lesions known as granulomas. Mice exposed to short nanotubes did not develop symptoms.

"We really have very little information about what types of carbon nanotubes are in products," Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies and a co-author of the paper, said in a statement. "Nanotubes come in many different types, different shapes, different sizes, different chemical behaviors. We don't know if the products on the market contain harmful nanotubes or safe nanotubes or even whether those nanotubes can come out of those products."

Nanotubes were first written about in a research paper in 1952, and further research brought it into the mainstream in 1991. Experts estimate that the nanotube market will hit the multi-billion dollar mark in the next few years.

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"The business community needs to very rapidly understand how to manage the [nanotube] issue, how to ensure their products are safe," Maynard said. "There is also the issue of trust here. Places need to tell people, especially people that are going to be buying their products, that they are taking every measure to ensure that those products are as safe as possible, and we're not going to have a situation like the asbestos situation."