Nanotech the New Asbestos: Carbon Nanotube Toxicity
Alan BC Dang
May 5, 2006 2:31 PM
comment(s) - last by
Carbon nanotubes have practical applications for anything and everything, but is there a dark side of CN that we are ignoring?
Nanotechnology was supposed to revolutionize the world. Experts in material science, bioengeering, and chemical engineering were now beginning to manufacture products 0.0001 times the width of a human hair. The unique properties of materials this small promised a future of advanced miniaturization of electronic components, novel pharamaceuticals and drug delivery systems, improved gas mileage, longer lasting tennis balls, better sunscreens and even flat panel televisions that anyone can afford.
While that future may still come, there is rising concern about the potential risks of nanoparticle toxicity. Carbon nanotubes are at the forefront of the discussion. In 2004, NASA researchers at the Johnson Space Center showed that when carbon nanotubes reached the lungs, they were more toxic than carbon black and even quartz on an equal-weight basis. In 2005, researchers at UT El Paso, showed that the cell toxicity effect of carbon-nanotubes was essential identical to that of chrysotile asbestos. Last March at a Society of Toxicology meeting, researchers from Tottori University showed the first series of images that showed carbon nanotubes entering the blood within a minute of contact with the lung. Once in the blood, the negatively charged carbon nanotubes attached to red blood cells, potentially leading to future complications.
On the other hand, the carbon nanotubes which are so dangerous in the lung may actually provide a ideal structure for bone growth and repair following injury. Carbon nanotubes also have a role in the development of high tensile-strength fibers, more efficient diodes, ultra-efficient solar panels. Likewise, nanoparticles made of cerium and yttrium oxides actually have antioxidant properties and
The real question is whether the concern should be primarily for workers in the industry who are continuously exposed to the nanoparticles, or if the proliferation of nanoparticles in the environment will make it a concern for everyone. No one knows the answer. The good news is that the industry is taking a close look at the problems and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (a division of the CDC) and the European Commission are both in the process of developing additional safety guidelines.
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RE: Everything Is Toxic...
5/5/2006 4:18:44 PM
Thats a classic apples to oranges comparison. If there is an application with a high enough amount of CN then it will probably be far more difficult to not inhale them than getting water in your lungs or air in your veins, simply due to the small size of
tubes or its fragments.
There is this futuristic mammoth project the japanese want to employ to overcome their problem of too little room for too many people in their large cities - by stacking buildings within a massive grid of - you guessed it - pillars made of CN material, since it would be lighter and stronger than steel or concrete. That is still sci-fi stuff, but it will eventually happen some day. And then we have alot of CN material that has to be produced and it will be very close to alot of people.
Its important that there is research done on this and recognize it as a potential risk so precautions can be taken in the future, unlike the infamous asbestos, which is a problem to alot of people now, because nobody thought it would ever become a problem back in the day when it was used in virtually every newly built building.
RE: Everything Is Toxic...
5/6/2006 3:09:27 PM
Carbon nanotube 'poisoning' is going to be far fetched, but not so far from asbestos poisoning, actually.
They don't fragment easily on their own, but if some company applies a sawblade to them in due industrial course... it could occur quite easily.
It may be even possible to use carbon nanotube fragments as an effective combat weapon, they're actually very aerodynamic... adding them to fragmentation grenades or land mines could improve kill rate... I guess I should be careful what I wish for.
I think there's some similar thought behind the reason they don't use cluster bombs too often, because they're 'inhumane', with a huge kill zone, and the collateral is incredible ...
I don't believe they're actually 'toxic'...
Any group of microscopic, sharp, and solid object entering in your lungs will cause serious health issues.
Carbon nanotube dust will probably be as dangerous as inhaling silicon or coal dust, and not so much like asbestos, afterall.
RE: Everything Is Toxic...
5/7/2006 5:49:29 AM
Almost any small particulate that you inhale is toxic. Many are very toxic. Its not a big deal though since people who work with these materials already wear venilators.
Actually, if you're working with any material that produces dust, its just common sense to wear proper protection. I use a basic mask just to work with insulation in my house. Better safe then sorry.
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