New Research Suggests Link between Carbon Nanotubes and Mesothelioma

Carbon nanotubes are a type of carbon molecule that has been in used by humans in numerous fields since the 1950s when they were first discovered.  Now in widespread use by many industries around the world, there has been research that suggests a possible link between carbon nanotubes and the rare cancer called mesothelioma.  In a recent study, carbon nanotubes had possibly led to the development of mesothelioma in lab animals, but the study went on to say that further testing was necessary to determine risk to humans.

Carbon nanotubes are microscopic molecules that contain bonds that are so strong relative to their size that they are used in nanotechnology, light bulb filaments, sports equipment such as tennis rackets, and concrete.  When looking under a microscope the carbon nanotubes look needle shaped tubes that bear a striking resemblance to asbestos fibers.  Scientists have reported that it is likely that a degree of toxicity can be attributed to the presence of carbon nanotubes in the human body, presenting as symptoms very close to mesothelioma.  While research is ongoing in this area, current results regarding prolonged carbon nanotube exposure to the human body does pose a serious health risk.

In response to these rising fears of carbon nanotube toxicity, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health along with the University of Pennsylvania have recently produced a study claiming that the human body can naturally dispose of carbon nanotubes.  The research teams have found a naturally existing enzyme, called myeloperoxidase,  found in white blood cells, that breaks down carbon nanotubes into harmless carbon dioxide and water molecules.,  Supporters of these conclusions hope that this will create a way for carbon nanotubes to be “rendered harmless” and not negatively affect the enormous need for carbon nanotube applications in nanotechnology medicine.