I keep an eye on health-trends. Some trends are good, some interesting, others simply silly. What I try to caution people against is jumping on any trend that is unproven. Nanotechnology is one of those trends. Current research shows that nano-fibers–needle-like fibres that are already in commercial use–led to lesions similar to those caused by asbestos.
Experiments conducted at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland showed that carbon nanotubes resulted in the same type of inflammation and scarring of the mesothelial lining (called granulomas) of the lungs, heart, and abdomen as asbestos does. Granulomas are lesions indicative of the cancer mesothelioma. A large body of research already exists about the potential of nano-fibers to attack the lungs, but this is the first study to show that carbon nanotubes can have the same damaging impact on the mesothelium.
Nanotubes hold great promise for applications in medicine, electronics and especially new materials. However, they may be inhaled in the work place and quite possibly even from products containing nanotubes. According to co-author of the study, Andrew Maynard, who predicted that within half a dozen years the market for carbon nanotubes would be worth billions of dollars, “We are at the very, very beginning of using these materials commercially. Great caution must be exercised before introducing such products into the market if long-term harm is to be avoided.”
All I can say is that we must always be careful before jumping full-force into any new technology. Should nanotechnology be studied and applied where useful?–heck yes. Should we put these particles in everything from tennis rackets to cosmetics before knowing everything we can about them? Uh, not! (please be aware of cosmetics companies jumping on the nano-trend–see what thinking minds have to say). I’m the biggest advocate for new technology, but I also believe that we must practice caution with anything that can enter our precious bodies. Don’t you?