A review of toxicity studies of single-walled carbon nanotubes in laboratory animals

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We summarized the findings of in vivo toxicity studies of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) in laboratory animals. The large majority addressed the pulmonary toxicity of SWCNTs in rodents. Inhalation, pharyngeal aspiration, and intratracheal instillation studies revealed that SWCNTs caused acute and chronic inflammation, granuloma formation, collagen deposition, fibrosis, and genotoxic effects in the lungs. Pulmonary toxicity of well-dispersed SWCNTs was more potent than less dispersed ones. Airway exposure to SWCNTs also induced cardiovascular diseases in mice. Oxidative stress was caused by the administration of SWCNTs. Injected SWCNTs were distributed throughout most of the organs including the brain, mainly retained in the lungs, liver, and spleen, and eliminated through the kidney and bile duct. Orally administered SWCNTs are suggested to be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract to the blood circulation in mice and rats. Although no definitive study on the carcinogenicity of SWCNTs is available at present, evidence of carcinogenicity has not been reported in toxicity studies cited in this review. Overall, the available data provides initial information on SWCNT toxicity. To further clarify their toxicity and risk assessment, studies should be conducted using well-characterized SWCNTs, standard protocols, and the relevant route and doses of human exposure.HighlightsWe review the toxicity studies of SWCNTs in laboratory animals.Various effects were reported after various routes of exposure to SWCNTs.Physico-chemical properties of SWCNTs are determinants of the toxicity.Oxidative stress and inflammation may be involved in the toxicity of SWCNTs.Studies using the relevant route and doses of human exposure are warranted.

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