Rice University researchers – some of the pioneers of nanotechnology – have declared that carbon nanotubes may be… may be… as dangerous as asbestos:
…[T]he authors tested the hypothesis that long straight nanotubes act like long straight asbestos fibers and cause mesothelial injury. Samples consisting of suspensions of long, straight MWCNT, short tangled MWCNT, long-fiber amosite (asbestos), short-fiber amosite (asbestos) and a nonfibrous nanoparticulate carbon black material were each injected into the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity of normal mice.
Tissue samples measured at 7 days were examined for the formation of scar-like lesions called granulomas that typify the body’s response to long fibers. Only the mice exposed to the long straight fiber asbestos and the long straight MWCNT showed the presence of inflammatory proteins, cells and granulomas….
Since carbon nanotubes are the building blocks of nanotechnology – found in everything from racing bikes and tennis rackets to drug delivery systems and nanoscale electric motors – this could be a significant health risk. Factory workers are already inhaling this stuff, and some cancer patients are having it injected into their bodies (a pdf).