Published Date 5/22/08 6:35 PM
Scientists delivered a warning Tuesday about nanotechnology, releasing the first study to link carbon nanotubes to mesothelioma, the AFP reports. In experiments on mice, researchers led by Ken Donaldson of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, exposed the mesothelium lining, which covers the lungs, abdomen and heart, to nanotubes measuring billionths of a meter. The nanotubes—microscopic, needle-like fibers that are already in commercial use—led to the same kind of inflammation and scarring, called granulomas, that are caused by exposure to asbestos. Published online in the British journal Nature Nanotechnology, the research suggests only that so-called long carbon nanotubes caused the pre-cancerous symptoms, indicating that further experiments are necessary to determine if short nanotubes are entirely safe. According to researchers, The biggest potential danger is probably in the work place, but nanotubes might also escape into the environment once the products containing them wind up in landfills. Noting that "we don't have enough evidence to call for a moratorium, but there is very urgent need to for action to ensure safety, by government and by industry," Maynard adds that additional researchers is necessary to determine whether the particles can be breathed in from air, and if they can migrate to within the lungs to cause cancer (AFP, 5/20/08).