Certain Types of Carbon Nanotubes May Pose Health Risk

Carbon nanotubes, 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, are among the materials many scientists believe will be used to build tiny electronics.

Published: 21-May-2008

FRANCISCO -- One of the most promising materials for the future of technology, carbon nanotubes, might be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled, according to a new study published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Animal studies indicate that these long and very thin carbon molecules could cause a cancer called mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining of the lungs.

"The problem of asbestos was caused when it was released into the air, if it was handled inappropriately or incorrectly. Carbon nanotubes could do the same," said Andrew Maynard, chief science adviser to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in Washington and one of the authors of the study.

"With this information, we should assume the worst, we should think of them as asbestos. But more research might relax that point of view."

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