A technology nearly 20 years old, carbon nonotubes have been touted as one of the most miraculous new materials of this century. Used for a variety of purposes, including improved batteries and electronics, this material is lighter than plastic yet stronger than steel. According to a leading U.S. publication, Chemical & Engineering News, in the next few years sales of all nanotubes might reach $2 billion annually. However, with such projected popularity, it is possible some unidentified hazards of this newly-developed material will threaten users.
Among the concerns surrounding this material is its actual physical structure. Unfortunately, despite vocal concern from scientists, none of the research done on this material addresses the issue of the material’s long, thin fibers. Unfortunately, experiments on mice where these carbon nanotube fibers were injected into their abdominal cavities produced the same effects of asbestos fibers. What makes asbestos so dangerous is that physical structure that allows it to embed in a patient’s body after it is damaged. Another facet of this research will focus on the material’s ability to become airborne and enter the bodies of individuals. However, researchers agree that there is a strong chance similar results to asbestos will be seen if the material is introduced in this manner.
After the results of these preliminary studies on mice, scientists have determined that further research must be performed before these products are introduced into the market. The long term risks of recklessly introducing this highly-anticipated material remain simply too great. Although not technically an asbestos material, the extremely similar physical structure makes it as much of a potential threat.