• Article

Potential occupational risks associated with pulmonary toxicity of carbon nanotubes

Given their remarkable properties, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have made their way through various industrial and
medicinal applications and the overall production of CNTs is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years, thus
requiring an additional recruitment of workers. However, their unique applications and desirable properties are
fraught with concerns regarding occupational exposure. The concern about worker exposure to CNTs arises from
the results of recent animal studies. Short-term and sub-chronic exposure studies in rodents have shown consistent
adverse health effects such as pulmonary inflammation, granulomas, fibrosis, genotoxicity and mesothelioma after
inhalation or instillation of several types of CNTs. Furthermore, physicochemical properties of CNTs such as
dispersion, functionalization and particle size can significantly affect their pulmonary toxicity. Risk estimates from
animal studies necessitate implementation of protective measures to limit worker exposure to CNTs. Information on
workplace exposure is very limited, however, studies have reported that CNTs can be aerosolized and attain
respirable airborne levels during synthesis and processing activities in the workplace. Quantitative risk assessments
from sub-chronic animal studies recommend the health-based need to reduce exposures below the recommended
exposure limit of 1 μg/m3. Practice of prevention measures including the use of engineering controls, personal
protective equipment, health surveillance program, safe handling and use, as well as worker training can
significantly minimize worker exposure and improve worker health and safety.


Manke, A., Luanpitpong, S., & Rojanasakul, Y. (2014). Potential occupational risks associated with pulmonary toxicity of carbon nanotubes. Occupational Medicine & Health Affairs, 2(3), [165]. https://doi.org/10.4172/2329-6879.1000165

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