Carbon nanotubes are as dangerous as asbestos

    Inhaling long multi-layered carbon nanotubes can be as harmful as inhaling asbestos. The fibrogenicity and carcinogenicity of asbestos fibers is well known: for this reason, the material has recently been banned for use in interior decoration. In 2008, the Center for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh (MRC Center for Inflammation Research) revealed that carbon nanotubes cause the same breathing problems and can trigger the same dangerous and rare form of cancer - mesothelioma, an incurable lesion of the lung pleura that can manifest 30-40 years after inhalation of asbestos.

    Given the high hopes that are placed on carbon nanotubes, the study of scientists could seriously complicate the implementation of some projects. They intend to use unique material in a variety of fields: from microelectronics to heavy-duty composite plastic, from new medicines to batteries. Engineers created projects based on the assumption that the material is harmless in direct contact with humans.

    Doctors conducted a study of the effect on the body of a laboratory mouse of long nanotubes with a thickness of 2-50 cylinders located along a common axis (pictured above). Such a material under a microscope is similar to asbestos fibers, and has the same properties when it enters the lungs. The unique asbestos damage is explained by its ultra-small diameter and long fiber length. This combination of characteristics allows the fibers to penetrate deep into the lungs, but does not allow the immune system to destroy them. Carbon nanotubes have the same properties. Particularly dangerous can be multilayer nanotubes composed of several cylindrical layers, because such structures retain their shape and sharp edges particularly well.

    Scientists have long noted the similarities between asbestos fibers and carbon nanotubes. But in 2008 for the first time the fears of doctors were confirmed by the results of laboratory experience. Almost five years have passed since the above experiment, but so far no additional experiments have been carried out to reliably verify the fact of the accumulation of nanotubes in the lungs. You need to make sure whether the immune system can destroy them over the years, or they accumulate like mineral fibers of asbestos.

    The scientific work of the Center for Research on Inflammatory Diseases at the University of Edinburgh was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology in May 2008.. “There is an urgent need to check how carbon nanotubes are used, you need to see if there is a chance that people are exposed to hazardous materials,” said then Dr. Andrew Maynard, one of the co-authors of the study. He added that for decades no one paid attention to the danger of asbestos until it was too late for many people.

    There is a risk that the same story will repeat with nanotubes: this is such a unique material that it is extremely beneficial for corporations to introduce it as quickly as possible. No one will conduct long-term clinical trials, especially if the first fatal victims appear only after 30-40 years.

    On the other hand, the dangers of asbestos and nanotubes can be exaggerated. In any electronic device you will find dozens of substances that are life-threatening. And remember about ordinary cigarettes. As it turned out, smoking tobacco grown on mineral fertilizers leads to the accumulation in the lungs of radioactive polonium-210 , not to mention the other chemicals. Life in general is a dangerous thing.

    PS As it turned out, the 2008 experiment did not go unnoticed, and to date, several dozen works on the effects of nanotubes on lung tissue have been published (thanks, consumer ).

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