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Risks associated with graphene

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graphene risks

Risks associated with graphene

By the AVICENN team – Last modification May 2023

  • In 2013, a British team of researchers recommended extreme caution in the use of graphene1Cf. Safety considerations for graphene: lessons learned from carbon nanotubes. Accounts of Chemical Research, 46(3), 692-701, 2013 (see abstract here).. They propose to first capitalize on the knowledge acquired about the risks associated with carbon nanotubes, which are partly similar.
  • In 2014, SCENIHR warned the Commission on the fact that2Reviews suggest that graphene may have considerable toxicity and that considerable emission of graphene from electronic devices and composites is possible in the future. It is also suggested that graphene is both persistent and hydrophobic. While these results indicate that graphene may have adverse environmental and health effects, they mostly show that there are still many gaps in knowledge about the risks.”:”Reviews3See for example: – Bianco, A. Graphene: Safe or Toxic? The Two Faces of the Medal Bianco, A. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 52, 4986-4997, 2013
    Review of Potential Environmental and Health Risks of the Nanomaterial Graphene, Arvidsson, R et al, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 19: 873-887, 2013.
    suggest that graphene nanomaterials could exert a considerable toxicity and that considerable emission of graphene from electronic devices and composites are possible in the future. It is also suggested that graphene is both persistent and hydrophobic. Although these results indicate that graphene may cause adverse environmental and health effects, the results primarily show that there are many riskrelated knowledge gaps to be filled”4Position Statement on emerging and newly identified health risks to be drawn to the attention of the European Commission, Vermeire T, SCENIHR, 2014.
  • In 2015, French and European researchers were more reassuring5Cf. Is graphene toxic?, CNRS, Le Journal, March 2015 even though toxicity studies were still in their infancy.
  • More recently though, published articles identified significant risks, especially with regard to graphene oxide6See the references listed in the bibliography below (section “elsewhere on the web”).
  • In March 2018, Andrew Maynard warned against the hasty promises of some Northwestern University scientists promoting the use of graphene in hair dyes7Cf. Eager to dye your hair with ‘nontoxic’ graphene nanoparticles? Not so fast!, Andrew Maynard, The Conversation, March 20, 2018.
  • At the end of 2018, a “Validation Service” of the European program Flagship Graphene was set up: LNE and the Instituto de Nanociencia de Aragón – Universidad de Zaragoza, independent national metrology laboratories and infrastructures are making their measurement expertise available to academic and industrial stakeholders in the field, with the aim of increasing quality and confidence in graphene-based and related materials (performance and risk control, throughout the value chain right up to finished products).
    The Flagship program lasted for 10 years (2013-2023), and the lessons learned from this decade of research have been published, among other outcomes.
  • Between March and May 2021, Canadian, Spanish and French authorities announced, as a precaution, the withdrawal of masks containing graphene due to the potential for lung toxicity from graphene inhalation.
  • In April, several manufacturers and their representatives emphasized that there were many types of graphene and processes for incorporating it into masks; not all graphene masks were the same, so there was no need to “panic” but just pay close attention to health concerns. However, in order to know what precise types of graphene have been integrated into the masks on the market, information from the manufacturers is essential; otherwise, tests are necessary in order to carry out a risk assessment (on release and toxicity).
  • This lack of toxicological data on graphene was also highlighted by ANSES in a report published in December 2021, which concluded that “Since graphene-free masks that comply with the standards and have demonstrated their particulate filtration efficiency are also available on the market, (…) it is not relevant that masks containing graphene be placed on the market, either for the general public or for professionals8Cf. Companies respond to graphene masks “health hazard” scare, Graphene Info, April 6, 2021 and Statement from the Graphene Council on face masks with graphene, April 9, 2021..
  • In May 2021, a study was also published warning about the development of applications for graphene-based eye products, as the risks are still very inadequately studied9Cf. Graphene Family Nanomaterials in Ocular Applications: Physicochemical Properties and Toxicity, Borandeh S et al, Chem. Res. Toxicol., 34, 6, 1386-1402, May 2021.
  • On July 16, 2021, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) launched a call for tenders to conduct a study “Health and Environmental Impact Assessment of Graphene, Graphene Oxide and Other 2D Materials”, carried out under the European Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON).
    → The report, written by Innovamol Consulting, was published in December 2022: Assessment of the potential impact of graphene, graphene oxide and other 2D materials on health, and the environment. It provides a scientific literature review on the subject based on existing public information.
  • In 2023, the Graphene Flagship research program concluded its activities. In a “Nano opinion” published on the European Observatory of Nanomaterials website, researchers reflect on the lessons learned from these 10 years of graphene and other 2D materials research, including the need for a multidisciplinary approach in nanosafety, the importance of ongoing funding for the development of new evaluation methods, the study of risks throughout the life cycle of graphene-containing products, the necessity for increased funding in fundamental research to better understand biological interactions, and the urgent need for harmonized and validated test protocols to support regulation.

Elsewhere on the web
  • In French :

Les dangers du graphène pris au sérieux, L’Usine nouvelle, 23 June 2022
– Are gray disposable masks containing graphene nanoparticles hazardous to health? IRRST, May 26, 2021

  • In English:

Fishing for novel interactions between nanomaterials and the immune system, EUON, May 2023
Assessment of the potential impact of graphene, graphene oxide and other 2D materials on health, and the environment, EUON, June 2022 (published in December 2022)
Nanosafety Analysis of Graphene-Based Polyester Resin Composites on a Life Cycle Perspective, Aznar Mollá, F et al, Nanomaterials, 12, 2036, 2022
Understanding the Health Risks of Graphene, AzoNano, May 2022
Pro-inflammatory response and genotoxicity caused by clay and graphene nanomaterials in A549 and THP-1 cells, Di Ianni E et al, Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, 872, 503405, December 2021
Ex vivo exposure to different types of graphene-based nanomaterials consistently alters human blood secretome, Ballesteros S et al, Journal of Hazardous Materials, 414, July 2021
Like a Trojan horse, graphene oxide can act as a carrier of organic pollutants to fish, Campusa (University of the Basque country), May 2021 and Uptake and effects of graphene oxide nanomaterials alone and in combination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in zebrafish, Martinez-Alvarez I et al, Science of The Total Environment, 775, June 2021
Comparative cytotoxicity of kaolinite, halloysite, multiwalled carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide, Rozhina E et al, Applied Clay Science, 205, May 2021
Graphene oxide induces dose-dependent lung injury in rats by regulating autophagy, Zhang L et al, Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 21(5), May 2021
Is Graphene in Face Masks Safe? Professor Andrew Maynard Explains Maynard A, Risk Bites, April 4, 2021
Graphene-Based Nanomaterials Modulate Internal Biofilm Interactions and Microbial Diversity, Evariste L et al, Frontiers in Microbiology, 12, March 2021
Similar toxicity mechanisms between graphene oxide and oxidized multi-walled carbon nanotubes in Microcystis aeruginosa, Crucesa E et al, Chemosphere, 265, February 2021
A transcriptomic overview of lung and liver changes one day after pulmonary exposure to graphene and graphene oxide, Poulsen SS et al, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 410, January 2021
Altered gut microbiome accompanying with placenta barrier dysfunction programs pregnant complications in mice caused by graphene oxide, Liu X et al, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 207, January 2021
Beyond graphene oxide acidity: Novel insights into graphene related materials effects on the sexual reproduction of seed plants, Carniel FC et al, Journal of Hazardous Materials, 393, 2020
Assessment of graphene oxide ecotoxicity at several trophic levels using aquatic microcosms, Evariste L et al, Carbon, 156: 261-271, 2020
Graphene-Based Nanomaterials in Soil: Ecotoxicity Assessment Using Enchytraeus crypticus Reduced Full Life Cycle, Mendonça MCP et al, Nanomaterials, 9(6), 858, 2019
Safety Assessment of Graphene-Based Materials: Focus on Human Health and the Environment, Fadeel B et al, ACS Nano, 12, 11, 10582-10620, 2018
Safety Assessment of Graphene-Based Materials: A Graphene Flagship Perspective, Bengt Fadeel, HSPH-NIEHS Nanolecture series, 18 October 2018
An overview of graphene materials: Properties, applications and toxicity on aquatic environments, De Marchi L et al, Science of the total environment, 631-632: 1440-1456, August 2018
Graphene oxide impairs the pollen performance of Nicotiana tabacum and Corylus avellana suggesting potential negative effects on the sexual reproduction of seed plants, Carniel FC et al, Environmental science Nano, 2018
Ecotoxicology of manufactured graphene oxide nanomaterials and derivation of preliminary guideline values for freshwater environments, Markovic M et al, Environmental Toxicology, 37(5): 1340-1348, May 2018
A Review on Graphene-Based Nanomaterials in Biomedical Applications and Risks in Environment and Health, Thabitha P. Dasari Shareena, Nano-Micro Letters, 2018
Molecular Mechanisms of Developmental Toxicity Induced by Graphene Oxide at Predicted Environmental Concentrations, Zhang X et al, Environ Sci Technol, 18;51(14):7861-7871, 2017
A review of toxicity studies on graphene-based nanomaterials in laboratory animals, Ema M et al, Regul Toxicol Pharmacol, 85:7-24, 2017
Toxicity of graphene-family nanoparticles: a general review of the origins and mechanisms, Ou L et al, Particle and Fibre Toxicology, 13:57, 2016
Applications and toxicity of graphene family nanomaterials and their composites, Singh Z, Nanotechnol Sci Appl, 9: 15-28, 2016
Evaluation of toxicity of nanoclays and graphene oxide in vivo: a Paramecium caudatum study, Marina Kryuchkova et al, Environmental Science: Nano, 2016
Potential Toxicity of Graphene to Cell Functions via Disrupting Protein-Protein Interactions, Binquan Luan et al, ACS Nano, 2015
Biological Interactions of Graphene-Family Nanomaterials: An Interdisciplinary Review, Sanchez VC et al, Chem. Res. Toxicol., 25, 1, 15-34, 2012 (Non-exhaustive list).

Any questions or comments? This information sheet compiled by AVICENN is intended to be completed and updated. Please feel free to contribute.

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