Biological Systems Engineering, Department of



Daniel A. Heller, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer CenterFollow
Prakrit V. Jena, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Matteo Pasquali, Rice University
Kostas Kostarelos, The University of Manchester
Lucia G. Delogu, Università degli Studi di Padova
Rachel E. Meidl, Rice University
Slava V. Rotkin, Pennsylvania State University
David A. Scheinberg, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Robert E. Schwartz, Weill Cornell Medicine
Mauricio Terrones, Pennsylvania State University
Yu Huang Wang, University of Maryland, College Park
Alberto Bianco, Université de Strasbourg
Ardemis A. Boghossian, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Sofie Cambré, Universiteit Antwerpen
Laurent Cognet, Université de Bordeaux
Simon R. Corrie, Monash University
Philip Demokritou, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Silvia Giordani, Dublin City University
Tobias Hertel, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Tetyana Ignatova, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Mohammad F. Islam, Carnegie Mellon University
Nicole M. Iverson, University of Nebraska-LincolnFollow
Anand Jagota, Lehigh University
Dawid Janas, Silesian University of Technology
Junichiro Kono, Rice University
Sebastian Kruss, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Markita P. Landry, University of California, Berkeley
Yan Li, College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering, Peking University
Richard Martel, University of Montreal
Shigeo Maruyama, The University of Tokyo
Anton V. Naumov, Texas Christian University
Maurizio Prato, Università degli Studi di Trieste
Susan J. Quinn, University College Dublin
Daniel Roxbury, The University of Rhode Island
Michael S. Strano, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
James M. Tour, Rice University
R. Bruce Weisman, Rice University
Wim Wenseleers, Universiteit Antwerpen
Masako Yudasaka, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

Document Type


Date of this Version



HHS Public Access Author manuscript Nat Nanotechnol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2023 August 28.

Published in final edited form as: Nat Nanotechnol. 2020 March ; 15(3): 164–166. doi:10.1038/s41565-020-0656-y.


In a recent correspondence, the Swedish non-profit organization ChemSec announced the addition of carbon nanotubes to the SIN (‘Substitute It Now’) list1. Carbon nanotubes were added as an entire material class that “should be restricted or banned in the EU.” We believe that this recommendation confuses researchers and the public as it is based on evidence from a very narrow subset of data. Such a designation will likely hinder innovations that could lead to safe and effective applications of carbon nanotubes. Furthermore, this line of reasoning could damage other fields of science and technology, if applied similarly. We have worked with carbon nanotubes since the 1990s, a time marked by excitement and confusion about the promises and concerns of nanomaterials2,3. During this period, broad claims of toxicities were ascribed to carbon nanotubes, which were later found to apply only to a narrow subset of carbon nanotube preparations and/or exposure routes4,5. Numerous subsequent publications that reported more nuanced results were given much less attention6–8. Importantly, data showing a lack of toxicity are often not published, as they are usually considered ‘negative’ results9. Unfortunately, we are left with a one-sided story that damages research efforts. The recent report by the advocacy group ChemSec seems to have been confused by these issues. The REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation (and the recent amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the USA) places the burden of proof on producers and importers of chemicals to demonstrate safety. The nanotechnology field subscribes to this principle and routinely conducts tests on the biocompatibility and potential biotoxicity of nanomaterials that are under development for medical and non-medical applications. REACH registration has been attained for limited quantities of three classes of carbon nanotube materials (932-414-1, 943-098-9 and 701-160-0). The inclusion of all carbon nanotubes in the SIN list discourages research and investment in these materials that are being applied, for instance, to treat kidney disease10, track viral outbreaks11 and to investigate Parkinson’s disease12. ChemSec should take special care to not inadvertently damage a research field by generalizing narrowly-applicable findings to a diverse family of materials, and to not misapply the solid precautionary principles on which REACH and TSCA are based.