A recent report issued by a French team of researchers provides details on some carbon nanotubes detected in asthmatic kids’ lungs in France. It is the first time that the unusual polluters are found in humans, researchers reported.
Carbon nanotubes are often used in electronics, computing, clothing and medical devices for being sturdy, tiny and super-conductive. But past studies showed that the compounds can trigger in mice the same reactions asbestos pollution can.
A group of researchers from the University of Paris-Saclay, in France, planned to learn if the nanotubes can pose a real health threat to humans, as well. In their study, they analyzed fluid samples taken from the lungs of more than 60 children diagnosed with asthma.
The team was shocked when it learned that all samples, with no exception, contained the nanotubes. Five study participants had the pollutants deeply embedded into their lungs since macrophages or the immune cells that help respiratory system stay clear from unwanted particles also contained them.
So far, carbon nanotubes were only found in dust and car exhaust in the capital city of France. Never before had they been detected in humans. Researchers couldn’t tell the source of nanotubes in kids’ lungs.
Scientists didn’t plan to find an association between the nano air pollutants and asthma, but asthmatic patients have a high risk of becoming ill because of the pollutants because their macrophages’ capacity of clearing debris in their lungs is reduced.
Researchers explained that even though nanotubes may not be a direct cause to diseases since other studies failed to prove them toxic they may still promote illness. Because of their large surface harmful particles can bind to them thus allowing other pollutants to damage lungs and cross-cell membranes.
James Bonner from the North Carolina State University was not very convinced by the finding. He argued that other studies failed to detect the elusive particles so now saying that carbon nanotubes were detected in asthmatic kids’ lungs in France may be far fetched.
Bonner said that he is uncertain about the structures’ true nature especially when they occur in human lung cells. Additionally, researchers at the University of London believe that carbon nanotubes cannot lead to cancer as asbestos and other pollutants can. Asbestos has larger molecules that cannot escape from the lining of the lung.
University of London researchers also said that we breathed nanotubes for a very long time, yet more research needs to be done.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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