As reported here several weeks ago the graphene investment story is not all plain sailing. Toxicology concerns have been expressed for some time and unfounded comparisons between the nanomaterial and asbestos have been suggested. Fears that graphene could potentially cause respiratory problems in people involved in the manufacturing process have been raised along with fears that the nano-sized particles could affect the food chain.
The claims are based on laboratory testing and are part of the statutory investigations that occur with any new product. Ascertaining potential harm is an essential part of determining safe practice in industry so the fears are all part of the process of bringing a new product to market. Due diligence is being enacted scientifically to minimise any potential danger.
The latest of these studies from the University of Edinburgh has recently announced that graphene nanoplatelets could be a greater risk to human health because of their aerodynamic properties. The flexibility of the disc-shaped nanoparticles mean that they travel further into the lungs when inhaled. Accumulation in the lungs could be a cause of serious respiratory problems though no evidence of this has yet been published.
Professor Ken Donaldson, chair of respiratory toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, said:
“We need to further assess the potential hazards posed by nanoplatelets made of graphene and other materials, so that appropriate health and safety measures can be put in place for those involved in their manufacture.”
Determining the health dangers of graphene is the most responsible path to take and could ensure the market stability of the product as well as the health of those involved in its manufacture. These first stages of toxicology research will help to minimise the risks and are therefore as important a chapter in the graphene story as the more sensational moments of discovery.
The study, which looked at the aerodynamic and toxic properties of graphene-based nanoplatelets, has been published in the journal ACS Nano.