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Earth Medicine Science

Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment 135

Zothecula (1870348) writes "It's easy to get carried away when you start talking about graphene. Its properties hold the promise of outright technological revolution in so many fields that it has been called a wonder material. Two recent studies, however, give us a less than rosy angle. In the first, a team of biologists, engineers and material scientists at Brown University examined graphene's potential toxicity in human cells. Another study by a team from University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering examined how graphene oxide nanoparticles might interact with the environment if they found their way into surface or ground water sources."
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Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @05:36AM (#46887489) Journal
    We like exotic nanostructures because they have cool properties that their bulk counterparts don't. Unfortunately, this ends up meaning that a knowledge of the toxicology of the bulk material is of only limited use for inferring what the cool nanostructure will do. Carbon shows signs of potentially being rather nastier in its fancy forms than it is in more familiar flavors; but other nanomaterials might go the other way.
  • by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @06:40AM (#46887697) Journal

    the carbon on the planet into nanotube meshes or sheets, eventually pulling all the carbon out of the air. Like Ice 9!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @08:11AM (#46887925)

    Graphene too dangerous in the environment? Well better ban all wood fires and BBQ grills because graphene forms pretty commonly on the inside of metal stoves/grills.

    Chicken little is at it again.

  • Re:Wonder material (Score:1, Interesting)

    by GoCrazy ( 1608235 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @08:57AM (#46888175)
    Then again, 90%-95% of asbestos (crystotile) used wasn't carcinogenic, and the remaining 5% of asbestos used was only carcinogenic to smokers. []
  • by KozmoStevnNaut ( 630146 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @09:10AM (#46888261)

    That depends on a lot of factors. Do you know why asbestos causes cancer? The fibers are fine enough that they will physically damage your DNA. I see very little reason why carbon nanotubes shouldn't be capable of the same thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @12:12PM (#46889811)

    Tell that to the pencil lead I have stuck in my hand from 20 years ago...

  • by morethanapapercert ( 749527 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @03:13PM (#46892387) Homepage
    Having two such marks myself, I have to say that what you have is not a pencil lead stuck in your skin, not any more anyway. By now what you have is a graphite tattoo. Graphite is the most stable allotrope of carbon in most conditions, making it far more likely to remain within the dermis for years and years. As others have pointed out, graphene is the common name for many different forms of carbon atoms arranged in regular sheets. Many of these forms are far less stable/more reactive than common graphite, which is what makes them interesting to us. A form of graphene that sees use as a nano level sponge or reactive substrate is probably not going to be particularly stable within the human body, which is where the concern about toxicity comes in. Any really stable form of graphene, like the ones where its physical strength is the primary purpose, is also likely to be less reactive and hence, less of a danger.

    tl;dr version: Any material, nano or otherwise, which would make a good tattoo ink (lightfast, relatively immobile in the dermis, non-oxidizing etc) is not likely to be very toxic, except perhaps in relatively large amounts.

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