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“It’s déjà vu, all over again” -Yogi Berra

Are we in for a repeat of the 1930s?

Carbon nanotubes are hexagonally shaped arrangements of carbon atoms that have been rolled into tiny straw-like cylinders. They have potential for use in a wide range of fields from engineering to medicine because of their strength and their ability to conduct electricity.

However, because of similarities in the size and shape of nanotubes and asbestos fibers, researchers have expressed concern over the potential health ramifications. An increasing body of scientific literature is confirming these suspicions.

Within days of being injected into mice, the nanotubes, increasingly used in electronic components as strengthening agents in polymers and dozens of other products, triggered a kind of cellular reaction that over a period of years typically leads to mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer usually associated with asbestos exposure.

And a recent article in the Journal of Particle and Fibre Technology, Mesothelioma: Do asbestos and carbon nanotubes pose the same health risk? states:

"The question of whether CNTs might potentially be linked to MM development justifies further research in this area. Moreover, on the basis of the literature, CNTs have already shown effects in animals and in cell systems that are similar to those observed with asbestos fibres. Two recent studies showed the occurrence of MM in genetically-modified cancer-sensitized mice and in conventional Fischer 344 rats exposed to CNTs by intraperitoneal or intrascrotal administration respectively. These initial results underline the urgent need for information to further our knowledge about CNTs’ potential to cause MM."

Generations worldwide have suffered because of needless delays in the regulation of asbestos. It is vitally important to do all we can to prevent carbon nanotubes from becoming yet another preventable public health crisis. The time to start is now.

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