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October 6, 2016

NIOSH Announces Recent Publications on Nanotechnology and Certain Types of Carbon Nanotubes

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently announced the availability of the following publications:

  • Nanotechnology: Delivering on the Promise is a two-volume American Chemical Society symposium report that discusses advances in nanotechnology and the value of precautionary risk management.  Editors include NIOSH Associate Director for Nanotechnology Charles L. Geraci, Ph.D., CIH.  Lynn L. Bergeson wrote a chapter entitled “Opportunities and Challenges for Health, Safety, and the Environment:  The Regulatory Void?,” which surveys the governance approaches that are emerging, with particular emphasis on the need for regulatory measures in targeted areas to ensure the integrity of core governance principles and provide some measure of commercial predictability; and
  • NIOSH scientists and external partners authored a critical review, update, and expansion of whether certain types of carbon nanotubes pose a risk of cancer in “Evaluating the mechanistic evidence and key data gaps in assessing the potential carcinogenicity of carbon nanotubes and nanofibers in humans,” published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology. When the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated carbon nanotubes in October 2014, it concluded the mechanistic evidence was considered to be not strong enough to alter the evaluations based on the animal data.  The authors examine the in vivo and in vitro experimental studies according to current hypotheses on the carcinogenicity of inhaled particles and fibers.  The authors cite additional studies of carbon nanotubes that were not available at the time of the IARC meeting, and extend their evaluation to include carbon nanofibers.  The authors identify key data gaps and suggest research needs to reduce uncertainty.  The abstract states:  “The findings of this review, in general, affirm those of the original evaluation on the inadequate or limited evidence of carcinogenicity for most types of [carbon nanotubes] and [carbon nanofibers] at this time, and possible carcinogenicity of one type of [carbon nanotube] (MWCNT-7).”  According to the authors, the key evidence gaps to be filled by research include:  investigation of possible associations between in vitro and early-stage in vivo events that may be predictive of lung cancer or mesothelioma, and systematic analysis of dose-response relationships across materials, including evaluation of the influence of physico-chemical properties and experimental factors on the observation of nonmalignant and malignant endpoints.