Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nanotubes to substitute asbestos as health hazard

Nanotechnology is everywhere these days. And so is a new health hazard comparable to asbestos - nanotubes that get into your lungs and you cannot get it out!

Carbon nanotubes, the poster child of the burgeoning nanotechnology industry, could trigger diseases similar to those caused by asbestos, a study suggests. Specific lengths of the tiny fibres were found to cause "asbestos-like" inflammation and lesions in mice.

There are high hopes for the tiny carbon molecules, which have remarkable properties that could be used for advanced electronics and materials. "As a society, we cannot afford not to exploit this incredible material but neither can we afford to get it wrong - as we did with asbestos," said Dr Andrew Maynard of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, US.

They are already known to be incorporated into products such as tennis rackets, bicycle handlebars and baseball bats, where they are used because of their strength and light weight. Other undocumented products may also make use of them, the researchers said, but companies did not have a duty to report their use. (BBC)

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