A study in Nature Nanotechnology, a science journal, indicates that carbon nanotubes may present asbestos-like dangers to people exposed to them, reports the Associated Press. Carbon nanotubes are microscopically small rolled pipes of graphite which, due to their relative strength and miniscule size, are being explored for a wide range of uses in electronics and medicine. The article explains though that the recent study seems to show the tubes mimic the dangers of asbestos in laboratory mice:
Researchers with British institutes and the U.S.-based Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies injected mice with asbestos and with commercial samples of carbon nanotubes of varying sizes. When they examined the lining of the rodents’ abdominal cavities, the researchers observed that longer nanotubes behaved like asbestos, provoking inflammation and lesions.
The article explains that a previous study in Japan also showed that when nanotubes were injected into mice, they caused mesothelioma, like asbestos. While the study apparently is not conclusive about the dangers nanotubes may present to humans, it raises awareness of the potential dangers associated with the tiny particles for those designing products containing them and for employers whose employees are exposed to them in the workplace.