Minggu, 01 Mei 2011

Nanotech could cause mesothelioma

Carbon nanotubes

3D model of three types of single-walled carbon nanotubes. (Wikipedia: Michael Stroeck, file photo)

In the 1990s scientists found a way to roll carbon atoms into a cylinder, called a nanotube. Now US researchers have found that the lungs of mice respond to some fibres from nanotubes as they would to asbestos, forming lesions and becoming inflamed.

Dr Andrew Maynard from the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars told AM nanotubes are excellent at conducting heat and electricity. They're already being used in sports equipment because of their strength.

"Almost like a miracle material. If only we could make it in large quantities in high purity, we could use it to do things that we have only dreamt of before," he said.

"If you look out in the market place, it is beginning to appear. So you can buy things like baseball bats, you can buy tennis racquets, you can buy golf clubs with this material, but I think those are probably just the tip of the iceberg."

Dr Maynard says at the moment there is no requirement to disclose that nanotubes are being used.

"In fact if you look at the safety guidelines for the material, most people are treating it just as graphite, the sort of stuff that you find in your pencil," he said.

He says the new study shows there is strong evidence that if carbon nanotubes get into the wrong place, they can cause mesothelioma.

"So we've got one piece of the puzzle here," he said.

"There are a couple of other pieces of the puzzle which still need to be filled in and those are asking whether exposure to this material actually will occur.

"Whether people can breathe it in and if they do, whether these fibres can work their way to the outer edge of the lung and then cause an effect.

"But we knew that if those two things happened, there is a very strong change that the prolonged carbon nanotubes will eventually lead to this disease."

Nanotubes used in sporting equipment are safely encased. Dr Maynard says the greater risk is to people involved in manufacturing them and disposing of them.

He hopes his findings aren't seen as fear-mongering, but he warns nanotechnology could become as widely used as asbestos once was.

"Carbon nanotubes are seen very much as the poster child of nanotechnology," he said.

"Some of the predictions are that by the year 2014 we are going to see goods sold around the world something like $2.6 trillion that are based in some way on different types of nanotechnology."

Dr Maynard also agrees there's a lack of knowledge about the safe use of nanotechnology in food, and is calling for more research.

"We are in a position where we could actually do great things with this technology if we had the knowledge to be able to use it safely," he said.

"Unfortunately, a lot of that knowledge is lacking at the moment. We need the research to fill in those information gaps."

Dr Maynard's findings are published today in Nature.

1 komentar:

Mesothelioma have several causes which includes asbestos, smoking etc.

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