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11 August 2014

Experts recommend investigating the potential carcinogenicity of carbon nanotubes

Advisers to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization, have recommended the agency to evaluate – with high priority – multi-walled carbon nanotubes in order to determine if these components might provoke cancer in humans.

Multi-walled carbon nanotubes are hollow, rolled fullerene sheets, with diameters of 2 to 100 nanometers. They have many applications in fields as diverse as electronics, transportation, sports goods, energy, and medicine.

The use and manufacture of multi-walled carbon nanotubes are increasing, as are the numbers of workers with potential exposure to these components.

"Like asbestos, several studies in mice and rats given multi-walled carbon nanotubes by intraperitoneal injection have shown that this agent induces peritoneal mesothelioma", state the experts in their document.

Long-term studies in rodents treated by inhalation were due to be completed in 2014 in Japan, and others were planned or have started in the European Union and the USA. The results of these studies were expected to become available within the next 5 years.

Besides carbon nanotubes, the experts recommend assessment of the potential carcinogenicity of various chemical substances, including Bisphenol A, pesticides or occupational situations (shift work).

The IARC's conclusions about carcinogenicity are used around the world in the context of government agencies’ regulatory decisions.

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