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Graphene not irritant to skin, study shows

Marko Spasenovic graphene graphene health graphene safety graphene toxicity

A new study shows that graphene itself, unless produced with the use of irritant chemicals, is not irritant to the skin. The finding is of crucial importance to the development and use of artificial and electronic skin, wound healing dressings and skin sensors based on graphene.

Although worries of potential toxicity of graphene-based materials (GMBs) persist, most studies so far have focused on exposure by inhalation. Since a growing number of applications is based on solid forms of graphene that are in contact with the body, it is of prime importance to analyze the contact toxicity of these materials. A study by researchers in Spain and Italy, recently published in the journal Nanoscale, showed that in most cases graphene is not irritant to the skin.

Figure: Histological analysis, showing no irritation due to graphene (Fusco et al, Nanoscale 2020, 12, 610, CC BY 3.0 license)

The researchers used the formally adopted SkinEthic Reconstructed Human Epidermis (RhE) model to assess toxicity of single- and few-layer graphene produced with various methods, including CVD growth, ball-milling, ultrasonic exfoliation in surfactants, graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide. The obtained RhE viabilities, a measure of toxicity, were excellent, with values significantly lower than the OECD threshold of 50%, for all types of graphene except that exfoliated in the presence of commonly used surfactants SDS and SDBS. The researchers repeated the same ultrasonic exfoliation method with non-irritant surfactants, such as melamine, which proved that graphene can be made non-toxic even with ultrasonic exfoliation.

These results provide a step forward to define GBMs’ occupational safety as well as their safe use in devices directly applied to the skin, suggesting that the use of non-toxic surfactants as exfoliation agents may improve their safety.


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  • Guillermo Valdes Mesa on

    Magnificent article, but it catches my attention that there is no reference to the technical committee ISO TC 229 / IEC TC 113 where the standardization of nanotechnology is taken into account in an important aspect such as health and safety and environmental impacts

  • peter powe on

    I feel more confident, through the above article, that graphene can and will be used internally, in the human body, safely and more than effectively, for instance, graphene can be used as a bridging apparatus between broken and separated bones anywhere in the body and heal the area with compatible, healthy effective, new bone structure. Thank You, Peter Powe.


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