Ecotoxicity of Fullerenes and Carbon Nanotubes: A Critical Review of Evidence for Nano-Size Effects
Elijah J. Petersen, Theodore B. Henry
The promise of nanotechnology is virtually unlimited with expected future applications in almost every field and widespread commercial products utilizing nanoparticles for enhanced capabilities. One important topic has been the extent to which the unique sizes of nanoparticles could also pose unique risks to human and environmental health. While it was initially postulated that these small sizes were expected to cause new risks, the extent to which these hypothesized risks have been realized has not been thoroughly examined for carbon nanoparticles. In this chapter, the current ecotoxicological literature for multi-cellular organisms is reviewed for carbon nanotubes and fullerenes, two carbonaceous nanomaterials, with regards to their potential nano-size toxic effects. Absorption of these compounds and their entrance into systemic circulation appears limited across a broad range of ecological receptors. Experimental artifacts such as the use of suspensions of fullerenes prepared using THF appear to account for the majority of the highly toxic effects observed for fullerenes. Overall, nano-size related risks have generally not been observed for these materials with multi-cellular organisms to date, but there are some effects from carbon nanotubes in aquatic ecosystems that may be attributable to the nano-size effects.