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Nanocyl investment into Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) research on NC7000™

Nanocyl invest substantially into MWCNT (NC7000™) research to demonstrate to the industry and the authorities a clear and objective benefit/risk situation. To this date, internal and external analysis and studies confirm the safety of using NC7000™ in commercially active applications.

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Nanocyl is continuously engaging resources to develop knowledge & data building blocks. Over the years, we demonstrated the expertise required to manage the HSE points related to NC7000™ technologies.

We are a responsible company leading pro-actively HSE data generation and assessment:

  • Develop and establish validated and reliable scientific testing methods as well as exposure assessment methodology applicable along the product value chain (check our partnerships);
  • Associated to the design and the publication of scientific studies,
  • Broadening the knowledge and understanding of NC7000™ MWCNT benefits and risks among non-expert audiences;
  • Communicating with interested partners worldwide,
  • Supporting the “Responsible Care” commitment of the chemical industry.


Risk assessments along the value chain

Nanocyl is committed to the generation of knowledge to ensure that NC7000™ formulated products are safe along the product value chain.
The risk related to the use of NC7000™ powder is not the same as the risk related to the use of NC7000™ integrated in a host matrix.
In order to make the risk assessment of their products, Nanocyl generates data continuously to identify potential issues at different stages of the production, use, and disposal of current and novel applications. The safety recommendations are afterwards, adapted accordingly.

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The risk assessment combines the identification of potential hazard of a material with the evaluation of its exposure to humans or environment under real life conditions.

The industrial highest likelihood to release of NC7000™ dust is during the manufacturing and the handling of NC7000™ powder at industrial plants. However, this corresponds to situation in which exposure can be best controlled. Afterwards, NC7000™ powder is incorporated in different matrices either by Nanocyl or by professional compounders. Those NC7000™ formulated products in a host matrix such as thermoplastics, rubbers, etc. will be converted into articles/parts by materials converters such as injection molders, etc. those parts will be integrated into a larger system. The final system is then distributed to consumers in various industries.

Risks will be therefore different if you are in contact with powder or formulated products.


Safety of NC7000™ powder

Available data generated on NC7000™ powder according to recognized standards showed no indications of a harmful effect from exposure under real-life conditions.

This statement of the global risk assessment of NC7000™ powder is based on the data generated in hazard and exposure studies (details are available here under).

From those studies, Nanocyl has put in place safe handling recommendations for the use of powder. This is particularly interesting internally and for other companies integrating NC7000™ powder into another material such as compounders.

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From exposure under real-life conditions of NC7000™ use, no indications of a harmful effect have been demonstrated:

  • Based on hazard assessment on NC7000™, it has been possible to conclude that hazard of NC7000™ is similar to any industrial insoluble particles inducing transient pulmonary inflammation at high doses
  • Exposure is likely to be micro-sized aggregates/agglomerates of NC7000™ and not free isolated NC7000™

Hazard of NC7000™ powder

For the time being a case-by-case approach is still appropriate and the hazard assessment described in this section is based solely on the information collected with NC7000™.

Although a large number of studies on the toxicity of MWCNTs have been published in scientific peer-reviewed literature, a clear characterization of the test materials (including sample preparation essential to ensure reproducibility and reliability in the toxicity test using suspension in vivo and in vitro methods), is often missing. Importantly, modifications of some specific characteristics of the MWCNT tested such as variations in size and shape, surface chemistry or purity levels might give rise to differences in the (eco) toxicological profile.

That means, on the other hand, that the values used for any risk assessment should not be associated to all MWCNTs or for CNTs in general. The results obtained with one particular type of MWCNT may not necessarily be relevant for other CNT with other dimensions and properties.

NC7000™ case: In compliance with generally accepted OECD guidelines, tests were conducted on intake and absorption via the mouth, skin and respiratory passages. The studies found no indications of a harmful effect from potential exposure under realistic industrial conditions. A long-term inhalation study similarly showed no indications of a harmful effect on health outside the respiratory passages. The effects observed in the lungs correspond to those typically described for insoluble particles meaning a local transient pulmonary inflammation at sites of predominant deposition for high dose exposure (Ma-Hock et al. 2009, Treumann et al. 2013]). From this study, an internal limit value of 2.5 µg/m3 was derived for workers exposure. Above and beyond the workplace limit value, comprehensive safety requirements are imposed on the manufacturing process.

Figure 6 summarizes the toxicological information generated on NC7000™ after dermal, oral or inhalation exposure. In parallel, ecotoxicological data (OECD 201, 202, 204, 211, 212) indicate no specific toxic effects of NC7000™. These results were generated in several recognized research centers either via funded research programs or via Nanocyl own funds.


Figure 6. Summary of (eco)toxicological data.

Regarding carcinogenicity of MWCNTs (chronic inhalation effects), different scientific studies propose to consider two main structures of materials:

  1. Category 1: Short, Thin, Flexible, Entangled (STFE) MWCNT
  2. Category 2: Long, Thick, Rigid ones (LTR)

The first category of MWCNTs or Short, Thin, Flexible, Entangled (STFE) MWCNTs such as NC7000™, does not behave like asbestos. This has been demonstrated in a 2-years in vivo carcinogenicity study in which rats were intraperitoneally exposed to a single dose of NC7000™ (2 or 20mg/rat) by comparison with asbestos. After 24 months, NC7000™ did not induce mesothelioma in this bioassay. This is contrary to asbestos that induced a clear carcinogenic response (34.6% animals with mesothelioma vs. 3.8% in vehicle controls) (Ref Muller et al, 2009).

The second category is clearly distinct from Category 1 MWCNT. This distinction between Short, Thin, Flexible, Entangled (STFE) MWCNT and Long, Thick, Rigid ones (LTR) was highlighted during the discussions at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)8. The experts concluded that there is sufficient evidence in experimental animal for the carcinogenicity of the Mitsui-7 MWCNT (second category). This specific Long, Thick and Rigid MWCNT type is now classified in IARC Group 2B like carbon blacks (possibly carcinogen to human).

However, all the other types of CNT (including NC7000™) are classified in the Group 3 (not classifiable as to their Carcinogenicity to Humans). Experts stated that “there is inadequate evidence in experimental animal tests for the carcinogenicity of all the other types of CNT that do not show similar dimensions and shapes to the Mitsui-7 MWCNT”.

Based on those above information, current good practice for the handling of carbon nanotubes is recommended to minimize potential exposition of workers especially for the exposure by inhalation. Handling guidelines, similar to those applied for any industrial insoluble particles, are sufficient to protect the workers from high dose exposure to NC7000™.

Exposure to NC7000™ powder

The industrial highest likelihood to release NC7000™ dust is during the manufacturing and the handling of NC7000™powder at industrial plants. However, this corresponds to situation in which exposure can be best controlled. 

Internal measurement campaigns conducted at Nanocyl confirm that, without taking into account the risk management measures in place, powder handling tasks (e.g. transfer, weighing, bagging, dumping, maintenance of the reactor,…) were associated with higher exposure levels in the production area. However, due to the strong tendency of NC7000™ to agglomerate together (Vander Waals forces), exposure to a free isolated NC7000™ is statistically negligible and was never observed during the plant field measurement campaign.

This is confirmed by a dustiness study conducted with the NC7000™ powder in a clean laboratory atmosphere and showing that the average spherical agglomerate of NC7000™ is 14 µm (EN 15051- Gravimetrical dustiness test-internal report).

It is also important to note that conventional protective devices such as filter media and FFP3 cartridge for respirators reduce the exposure of this kind of aerosol. Overall, due to the strong tendency of NC7000™ to agglomerate in the micrometer range, risk management measures to ensure the safety are similar to those used for typical powders such as silica or carbon black.

Safety of formulated products

Available data showed that converters and consumers can use safely applications based on our formulated products.

This statement of the global risk assessment of Nanocyl® formulated products is based on the data generated in hazard and exposure studies.

From those studies, Nanocyl has put in place safe handling recommendations for the use of formulated products. This is particularly interesting for converters such as injection molders.

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Available data showed that converters and consumers can use safely applications based on our formulated products.

  • Based on hazard assessment on our formulated products, it has been possible to conclude that no additional toxicity was found with polymeric matrices containing NC7000™ compared to raw polymeric matrices.
  • Exposure: Fragments of degraded matrix with embedded or surface network NC7000™ are generated by applying mechanical or ageing stress to a polymeric matrix containing NC7000™. Consumers and converters are therefore not exposed to carbon nanotubes (free or agglomerates).

Hazard of formulated products

During the use of articles made of formulated products containing NC7000™, the host matrix could be degraded (abrasion, weathering, etc.) releasing microsized particles. In any case, NC7000™ apparently remains encapsulated inside the matrixes (see section Exposure of formulated product). Moreover, physiological lung effects of the abraded materials containing or not the NC7000™ (either in vivo or in vitro) were assessed. Results demonstrate that there is no additional lung toxicity with the material containing NC7000™ [Wohlleben et al. 20113; Wohlleben et al. 20134].

In conclusion, hazard of Nanocyl® formulated products such as PLASTICYL™ are only driven by the intrinsic hazard of the matrix. In this example, it will depend on the type of thermoplastics.

Exposure to formulated products

NC7000™ carbon nanotubes are not used as free powders, but are always integrated into another material. One can imagine this as a pigment in a plastic material: it becomes a part of the material and is firmly linked, or “built-in”, to the material itself. According to weathering and abrasion studies conducted on NC7000™ formulated products, the exposure to free isolated NC7000™ can be considered as negligible.

In order to investigate the potential release of free isolated carbon nanotubes from formulated products during their uses, Nanocyl has conducted several abrasion (on PP, TPU, epoxy-resin, PVDF, POM, hardened cement paste, crosslinked PU and NR) and UV-weathering tests (on POM, hardened cement paste, TPU, PC, HDPE, crosslinked PU) on various matrixes containing NC7000™ (Wohlleben et al. 200113/20134).

Basically, results are all in line and reveal that, after abrasion, particle release rate did not vary between formulated products containing NC7000™ and raw host matrix (without CNT). In addition, after abrasion or UV-weathering, no evidence of individual free isolated NC7000™, bundles of NC7000™ or NC7000™ attached to larger particles were observed for all formulated products as shown on the Figure 7. Specifically for the weathering tests, the results do not show any migration of NC7000™ to the surface during ageing and consequently, free isolated CNT are not expected to be released from the matrixes. In any case, NC7000™ apparently remain encapsulated inside the matrixes tested.


Figure 7. Swarf particles of PP-CNT polymeric matrix obtained after abrasion. 1) 20 µm. 2) 500 nm.

Overall, the exposure to NC7000™ can be considered as negligible as soon as the material is embedded in a polymeric matrix.