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June 13, 2008

IARC Announces Carbon Nanotubes Nominated for Review

Lynn L. Bergeson

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently solicited nominations for substances for review in future IARC Monographs, which identify environmental factors that can increase the risk of human cancer. IARC states that it will select substances for review based on: (a) evidence of human exposure; and (b) evidence or suspicion of carcinogenicity. The 51 substances nominated include carbon nanotubes, which received three nominations:

NameDavid Coggon
Principal affiliationMRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Public health reason for IARC to undertake this review?Nanotechnology is developing rapidly with many potential applications. Evidence is beginning to emerge that nanotubes could pose cancer risks similar to those from asbestos.
NameJennifer Sass
Principal affiliationNatural Resources Defense Council
If the substance was previously reviewed, what new information would lead to a change in the evaluation?Multiwalled Carbon Nanotubes (MWCNT): Substantial animal studies report that exposure to MWCNTs by tracheal installation induces progressive, irreversible lung fibrosis that would likely lead to cancer. New data strongly suggests the potential for single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) to cause lesions that may lead to mesothelioma. The potentially-widespread use of these new materials and allied potential for exposure and harm argue strongly for an evaluation of existing literature. Objective review of existing information is critical to support appropriate actions across the globe on this potential carcinogen.
Public health reason for IARC to undertake this review?Widespread water contaminant.
NamePaul A. Schulte, Ph.D.
Principal affiliationNational Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Public health reason for IARC to undertake this review?Carbon nanotubes are likely to be used increasingly in a large number of products. Therefore, increasing numbers of workers may be exposed to them. Preliminary information indicates that carbon nanotubes may have similar carcinogens potential as other durable natural or man-made fibers.

To assist IARC in selecting substances for review, it is convening an Advisory Group to review all public nominations and to recommend those it considers to be of high priority. According to IARC, the Advisory Group “may also propose additional agents at the meeting for discussion and possible inclusion on their list of recommended priorities. In making their recommendations, the Advisory Group will consider near-term public-health priorities and recent research and research in progress.” The Advisory Group will meet on June 17-20, 2008.