Keywords: carbon nanotubes, CNT, hazard assessment, environmental health, nanotechnology, toxicology, workers health, health protection, biokinetics, health hazards, occupational health, medical surveillance, nanomaterials, dose response
A toxicological approach to hazard assessment of carbon nanotubes: implications for workers' health protection
Since Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) have been only recently introduced into the market, clinical and epidemiological evidence for establishing whether these can affect the cardiovascular system or can exacerbate certain pre-existing medical conditions is lacking. In vitro tests assessing the Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) may help to identify the hazardous properties, whereas in vivo studies could improve our understanding of the biokinetics and effects on target organs. The results from experimental studies suggest that CNT may pose a health hazard to employees and underscore the need for preventive measures. Owing to the biopersistency of CNT, short-term inhalation studies seem inadequate to identify what disease endpoints should be considered in occupational medical surveillance. In spite of this uncertainty, mechanistic in vitro/in vivo studies, using well-characterised nanomaterials and pointing to the dose?response assessment, can improve our ability to move from laboratory science towards a sound management of the possible health impact of this new class of chemicals.