Among the many available manufactured nanomaterials, carbon nanotubes are of particular interest because of their wide range of potential industrial applications and their exceptional properties. However, there is concern regarding the toxicity of some of these nanotubes. In 2007, the Agency received a formal request to perform an expert appraisal of the risk assessment for nanostructured materials, particularly those with carbon nanotubes in their composition. A research and development programme has been launched with the aim of creating a manufacturing sector for these materials. Financial support for this programme is partially subject to the requirement for the industrial consortium to provide an assessment of the health and environmental risks associated with manufactured carbon nanotubes. The Agency has already published two opinions and a report on this topic. A third and final expert appraisal is planned for 2013.
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Updated on 21/09/2016
Assessment of the risks associated with carbon nanotubes
Expert appraisal of the risk assessment for GRAPHISTRENGTH C100 carried out as part of the Genesis research and development programme
Among the many available manufactured nanomaterials, carbon nanotubes are of particular interest because of their wide range of potential applications and their exceptional properties.These nanomaterials have particularly useful properties, making them valuable additives in various materials and coatings, and in the areas of energy and catalysis. Potential applications specifically in the medical field include uses in drug vectorisation and imaging techniques.
A wide range of carbon nanotubes are available and their physico-chemical characteristics vary depending on the manufacturing process and implementation approach.
The toxicity of these substances has been studied for about 10 years, giving rise to publications on in vitro cell responses and short-term studies in rodents, but no epidemiological data are available. The reported effects are a source of concern for human health, particularly in light of suspected teratogenic effects.
The work of the Agency
In November 2007, the Agency received a formal request from BPI France to perform an expert appraisal of the risk assessment for GRAPHISTRENGTH C100 carried out as part of the Genesis research and development programme.
The aim of the programme, headed by the company Arkema, is to create a technology sector for nanostructured materials that include carbon nanotubes and/or controlled architecture copolymers in their composition. Financial support for this programme from Oséo is partially subject to the requirement for the industrial consortium to provide an assessment of the health and environmental risks associated with manufactured carbon nanotubes.
According to the terms of the formal request received from Oséo, at three successive stages of the Genesis programme, the industrial consortium must submit to ANSES the results of all studies carried out on GRAPHISTRENGTH C100, including those on physico-chemical characterisation, toxicology, ecotoxicology and life-cycle analysis. The first stage (2010-2011) resulted in the publication of:
- an expert appraisal of studies carried out as part of the Genesis programme on GRAPHISTRENGTH C100 (Agency opinion dated December 2010);
- a current status report on the impact of carbon nanotubes on health and the environment (report dated February 2011).
The second stage of the expert appraisal led to publication of an ANSES opinion accompanying the working group report and the summary of the Expert Committee (CES) on Assessment of the risks related to physical agents, new technologies and development areas.
A third and final expert appraisal is planned for 2013.
 BPI France is an industrial or commercial public institution in France that supports innovation and growth in SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). It took over the activities of the Industrial Innovation Agency (AII) in January 2008.