Last week, while reading about rapid prototyping, I stumbled across a page that appears to show carbon nanoparticles being sprayed into the air without any protective equipment being used (the part is held in bare hands, and a lot of spray is going past the part).
I wrote to them and asked for the MSDS (material safety data sheet) on the particles. They have not answered yet. So I searched and found the company that makes the product they are using. Then I searched for "nano" on their website, and found this .doc file which said: "5] How safe is nano carbon fibers and nano-carbon tubes? They are safe in our compounds but dangerous by themselves if inhaled."
The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology mainly concerns itself with molecular manufacturing, since that will be the most powerful application of nanotechnology in the long run. But when I see something that looks potentially irresponsible in other areas of nanotech, I try to follow up on it as well.
Any industrial chemical needs appropriate precautions, especially if it is being sprayed as an aerosol. Given how new carbon nanotubes are, it is probably a good idea to err on the side of caution - and it seems incautious not to at least use gloves and a good respirator.
I'll be sending a pointer to this blog post to both companies, and I'll update it if I get any information from them.
Update 9-28: Someone from the rapid prototyping company contacted me, pointed me at the MSDS for the product (which does not list the nanoparticles, only the solvents), and promised to look into this more deeply to make sure they're recommending a safe product.