Borg, but it can be just as scary. New research has determined that carbon nanotubes used in bike parts and bumpers act like asbestos if inhaled. Alan Zarembo of The Los Angeles Times reports:
Researchers found that mice injected with nanotubes quickly developed the same biological damage associated with early exposure to asbestos fibers, a known carcinogen.Nanoparticles are also used in sunscreens and cosmetics, but nanoparticles are something of an unknown. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
The study showed "the potential to cause harm if these things get into the air and into the lungs," said coauthor Andrew Maynard, a physicist at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
Maynard said the nanotubes posed the greatest danger to workers who could inhale the dust-like particles during manufacturing. In finished products, the nanotubes are embedded in other material and thus pose less risk to consumers.
Sean Murdock, head of the NanoBusiness Alliance, an industry trade group based in Skokie, Ill., said precautions were now in place in many factories, usually requiring workers to wear respirators. Nanotubes are largely made in closed chemical reactors, he added.
"The good news is that we're understanding the potential hazards before we have large-scale use of these products and not four decades later," he said.
Although nanotechnology may be the next scientific revolution, experts feel we should proceed with caution when exploiting the unpredictable properties that material exhibit at the nanoscale.Sounds like more research needs to be done before we hand nanotechnology the key to the city, and our bodies.
The size of nanoparticles is the concern; being 70 times smaller than a red blood cell and close to a DNA molecule in diameter potentially could allow them to penetrate the skin and possibly even elude the immune system to reach the brain.