Long carbon nanotubes could cause cancer in the lung lining

Tiny fibres used to strengthen everyday products such as bicycle frames and hockey sticks could pose health hazards to those involved in their manufacture.

Certain types of carbon nanotubes - cylindrical molecules about one-thousandth of the width of a human hair - could cause cancer in the lining of the lung, University of Edinburgh researchers have found.

The study in mice found that while short carbon nanotubes appeared relatively harmless if they entered lung cavities, longer nanotubes were more likely to get stuck there and ultimately cause a type of cancer known as mesothelioma.

Researchers are now looking at assessing the level of risk involved, for instance by looking at how many of the long fibres are present in the air of workplaces.

The study, published in the American Journal of Pathology, found that longer carbon nanotubes caused a reaction in the lung lining similar to that of asbestos.

Professor Ken Donaldson, Chair of Respiratory Toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, said: "The industrial-scale manufacture of carbon nanotubes is increasing, with a global market in excess of -1 billion. This research shows that there is a potential hazard in the manufacture of certain types of carbon nanotubes."

Longer asbestos fibres are also more harmful than shorter fibres since they also get stuck in the lung cavity where they can cause diseases including mesothelioma.

The study demonstrates the need for industry to design safe nanofibres that are long enough to be useful but short enough to avoid causing disease.

It follows on from previous research in mice looking at the effect of carbon nanotubes on the stomach cavity.

Posted in: Medical Science News | Medical Condition News

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  1. Curly Straight Curly Straight United States says:

    Yes, but are we talking about long and straight fibers or long and curly fibers?

    The last time I checked, there was no way to find out if an animal exposed to curly MWCT had them stuck in the mesothelium. The reason is that microscopic cross-sections would slice up curly MWCT so you'd easily mistake it for temporary short stuff.

    I'd really like to get to the bottom of this issue. I have this issue on Google Alerts but, for the past two years, I am just getting the "long nanotubes could be dangerous" content without any reference to straight or curly. And, for Heaven's sake, let's see the scientific community finally find a way to autopsy an animal or human (who worked in the industry and died of natural causes or cancer) to check the level of curly long nanotubes in the mesothelium.

    I know that people in the industry have died of natural causes. I know that dogs and cats have lived in CNT labs. Why is there zero discussion of such autopsies being performed.

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