Posted in | Graphene

Graphene Flagship Project Studies Impacts of Graphene on Human Health and Environment

Thorough research and understanding of all safety aspects of graphene are important since the drive to commercialize it continues. The Graphene Flagship project includes a dedicated Work Package that investigates the effect of graphene and related materials on human health, and also on the environment. This allows safety by design to become a central part of innovation.

Graphene Flagship researchers reviewed the current research into the safety of graphene and related materials. (Image credit: Fotolia/Graphene Flagship)

Presently, companies and researches are using a variety of materials, for example, graphene oxide, few-layered graphene, and heterostructures. Complete characterization of these materials is the initial step to evaluate the toxicology. This research outlines the production and characterization techniques and takes various materials into consideration, the biological effects of which depend on their inherent properties.

One of the key messages is that this family of materials has varying properties, thus displaying varying biological effects. It is important to emphasize the need not only for a systematic analysis of well-characterized graphene-based materials, but also the importance of using standardized in vitro or in vivo assays for the safety assessment.

Bengt Fadeel, Graphene Flagship Partner, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

Bengt Fadeel is the lead author of this paper.

This review correlates the physicochemical characteristics of graphene and related materials to the biological effects. A classification based on lateral dimensions, number of layers and carbon-to-oxygen ratio allows us to describe the parameters that can alter graphene’s toxicology. This can orient future development and use of these materials.

Alberto Bianco, Graphene Flagship Partner, CNRS, France.

Alberto Bianco is also the deputy leader of the Graphene Flagship Work Package on Health and Environment.

The paper provides a detailed overview of all aspects of the effects of graphene on environment and health, concentrating on the potential interactions of graphene-based materials with main target organs such as skin, immune system, cardiovascular system, lungs, gastrointestinal system, reproductive system, central nervous system, and also an extensive variety of other organisms such as vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, algae, and bacteria in different ecosystems.

One cannot draw conclusions from previous work on other carbon-based materials such as carbon nanotubes and extrapolate to graphene. Graphene-based materials are less cytotoxic when compared to carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide is readily degradable by cells of the immune system,” comments Fadeel.

Understanding any potential Health and Environmental impacts of graphene and related materials has been at the core of all Graphene Flagship activities since day one. This review provides a solid guide for the safe use of these materials, a key step towards their widespread utilization as targeted by our innovation and technology roadmap.

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer, Graphene Flagship.

Andrea C. Ferrari is also the Chair of the Management Panel of Graphene Flagship.

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