Listen Closely: That's the Sound of Thousands of Mesothelioma Lawyers Rubbing Their Hands Together
Carbon nanotubes are apparently the new asbestos. According to a study overseen by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, carbon nanotubes not only look like asbestos fibers, but behave like them as well. And, just like asbestos fibers, they can cause mesothelioma, a cancer that occurs in the lining of the lungs.
At least in some mice injected with them.
That’s a relief, no?
So while the study is cause for some concern, it’s no reason to demonize carbon nanotubes, which have proved themselves quite useful in everything from electrical circuits to drug delivery mechanisms. At least not without doing a bit more research.
“Carbon nanotubes have great potential as a unique material that can be used in many unique and beneficial ways–from reducing our environmental impact to curing diseases,” Andrew Maynard, chief science adviser to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, wrote in a post to his Web log. “But missteps now could easily undermine trust in this nascent industry, and prevent the material’s potential from being realized. The comparison with asbestos is firmly grounded in the physical resemblance between certain forms of the two materials, and this alone should stimulate clear action to ensure safe use. But the health impacts of asbestos exposure still resonate through society–deaths from asbestos-related disease are not expected to peak for another 10 years–and the mere suggestion of similarities between nanotubes and asbestos fibers could cause investors and users to shy away from this new technology unless there are clear assurances that health and safety concerns are being fully addressed.”