In animal experiments graphene was found to cause damage to the lungs after inhalation. Small fragments, however, are removed through self-cleaning mechanisms.


The respiratory tract is considered as the potentially main entrance route for graphene-related materials in humans. To date there are no studies available on the effect of these materials on humans.

A comparative inhalation study in rats showed, that the toxicity of carbon-based materials is depending on many parameters. Carbon Black and graphite nanoplatelets caused no negative effects after inhalation. In contrast, carbon nanotubes showed the most severe effects followed by graphene with less toxicity [1].
Inhalation of graphene platelets causes inflammation in the lungs of mice which decrease slightly one week after exposure. The smaller fragments are being removed due to the self-cleaning mechanisms of the lung [2].

In contrast, graphene oxides cause acute damage to the lungs of mice after instillation [3]. The authors recommend for biomedical applications to sustain a stable dispersion of nanoscale graphene and to minimize contamination with graphene oxides.

Application of fluorescence-labelled graphene layers during tumour therapy in combination with photo-thermal therapy could result in shrinkage of the tumour without displaying any toxic side-effects [4].

Radioactive-labelled graphene layers can be detected in the livers and spleens of mice after injection but do not cause damage to organs or toxic side-effects. The noted side-effect of brown colouring of the liver and kidneys was found to gradually disappear within time [5].


Literature arrow down

  1. Ma-Hock (2013), Part. Fibre Toxicol. 10:23
  2. Schinwald, A et al. (2012), ACS Nano, 6(1): 736-746.
  3. Duch, MC et al. (2011), Nano Lett, 11(12): 5201-5207.
  4. Yang, K et al. (2010), Nano Lett, 10(9): 3318-3323.
  5. Yang, K et al. (2011), ACS Nano, 5(1): 516-522.


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