Could Carbon Fiber Be The New Asbestos?

Could carbon fiber inflict the same kind of damage on the human body as asbestos? That’s the question which [Nathan] found himself struggling with after taking a look at carbon fiber-reinforced filament under a microscope, revealing a sight that brings to mind fibrous asbestos samples. Considering the absolutely horrifying impact that asbestos exposure can have, this is a totally pertinent question to ask. Fortunately, scientific studies have already been performed on this topic.

Example SEM and TEM images of the released particles following the rupture of CFRP cables in the tensile strength test. (Credit: Jing Wang et al, Journal of Nanobiotechnology, 2017)
Example SEM and TEM images of the released particles following the rupture of CFRP cables in the tensile strength test. (Credit: Jing Wang et al, Journal of Nanobiotechnology, 2017)

While [Nathan] demonstrated that the small lengths of carbon fiber (CF) contained in some FDM filaments love to get stuck in your skin and remain there even after washing one’s hands repeatedly, the aspect that makes asbestos such a hazard is that the mineral fibers are easily respirable due to their size. It is this property which allows asbestos fibers to nestle deep inside the lungs, where they pierce cell membranes and cause sustained inflammation, DNA damage and all too often lung cancer or worse.

Clearly, the 0.5 to 1 mm sized CF strands in FDM filaments aren’t easily inhaled, but as described by [Jing Wang] and colleagues in a 2017 Journal of Nanobiotechnology paper, CF can easily shatter into smaller, sharper fragments through mechanical operations (cutting, sanding, etc.) which can be respirable. It is thus damaged carbon fiber, whether from CF reinforced thermal polymers or other CF-containing materials, that poses a potential health risk. This is not unlike asbestos — which when stable in-situ poses no risk, but can create respirable clouds of fibers when disturbed. When handling CF-containing materials, especially for processing, wearing an effective respirator (at least N95/P2) that is rated for filtering out asbestos fibers would thus seem to be a wise precaution.

The treacherous aspect of asbestos and kin is that diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma are not immediately noticeable after exposure, but can take decades to develop. In the case of mesothelioma, this can be between 15 and 30 years after exposure, so protecting yourself today with a good respirator is the only way you can be relatively certain that you will not be cursing your overconfident young self by that time.

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Australia Bans Engineered Stone, Workers Elsewhere Demand The Same

Engineered stone, also known as artificial stone or composite stone, has become a popular material in the construction and design industries due to its aesthetic appeal and durability. It’s become the go-to solution for benchtops in particular, with modern kitchens and bathrooms heavily featuring engineered stone in this way.

However, this seemingly innocuous material harbors a dark side, posing significant health risks to workers involved in its manufacturing and installation. The hazards associated with engineered stone have gone unnoticed for some time, but the toll is adding up, and calls for action grow louder. Let’s examine why engineered stone is so harmful, and explore the measures being taken across the world to curtail or even ban its use.

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Asbestos: The Miracle Mineral Of Our Worst Nightmares

For much of the 19th and 20th century, the mining and use of asbestos saw near-constant growth, with virtually every material used in the construction of homes, offices, ships, road networks and industries featuring this miraculous mineral in some fashion. Some of these materials would contain only a few percent asbestos mineral as a binder, while others would be mostly or entirely composed out of asbestos.

What had begun as mostly a curiosity thousands of years prior was now turning into the material that was helping propel humanity into an era of hitherto unknown levels of prosperity and technological progress. It seemed as if the addition of even just a bit of asbestos would make houses weather- and fireproof, make concrete and asphalt nearly indestructible and add just that little bit of zing to tiling and interior decorations, as well as rigidity to the predecessor to today’s plastics: bakelite. Continue reading “Asbestos: The Miracle Mineral Of Our Worst Nightmares”

Preserve History And Dispose Of Asbestos

If you’ve ever visited Gettysburg, the turning point of the American Civil War, you’ve probably seen this illuminated topographical map. For years, it was housed in one of the many visitor centers in Gettysburg and demonstrated the progress of the 3-day battle with an amazing 1960s-era visualization using a 30 foot by 30 foot topographical map and many, many light bulbs. Even the coolest museum exhibits are eventually made obsolete, so this masterpiece of battlefield education is now up for sale. The starting price for this auction? Five dollars.

We’re going to be honest. We talked about using Hackaday’s influence (and funding to buy toys such as an AR Drone and the Oculus Rift) to put a project together to save this gigantic map. It’s got everything we love in a large-scale project: giant things weighing several tons, cool representations of data, and vintage electronics. Really, restoring this map is the perfect project for any (very) ambitious hacker. It also helps I live a half hour away from Gettysburg.

There’s a problem, though: the map is literally covered in asbestos. Also, it takes up four shipping containers and weighs 12 and a half tons. Basically, you’re bidding on a GSA auction to be responsible for a hazardous waste disposal project.

Now that our dreams of doing something really cool with five dollars have come crashing down, we’re turning it over to Hackaday readers. If you run an asbestos disposal company and are around South Central PA or Maryland, there may be some people who want to get in touch with you. Drop a note in the comments.

Really, we’d really just like someone to scan this 30-foot square map with a Kinect and a high-resolution camera, and maybe get our hands on a video of the hourly show when this map was still in operation. It should be possible to dig up some topographical data and replicate this map fairly easily… maybe someone should start a Kickstarter to build a smaller, non-asbestos laden copy?