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Characteristics and safety of nano-sized cellulose fibrils

  • Pitkänen, Marja
  • Kangas, Heli
  • Laitinen, O.
  • Sneck, Asko
  • Lahtinen, Panu
  • Soledad Peresin, Maria
  • Niinimäki, J.
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A finely ground fibrillated cellulose was fractionated into separate size fractions. The characteristics of the smallest size fractions were studied, and the toxicity to humans was tested as part of a safety assessment. Morphological studies performed with state-of-the-art methods, such as scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy, showed that the fraction obtained consisted of long thin fibrils but also larger fibril agglomerates, and spherical particles were present. The finest fraction did not show any sub-lethal effects as assessed by RNA inhibition test in vitro, nor were there any indications of genotoxicity as tested by the Ames test in vitro. Systemic effects tested in vivo with the nematode were also absent. No cytotoxic effects were seen in the highest tolerated dose test in vitro, but some indication of cytotoxicity was observed in the total protein content test in vitro at the highest sample concentration. The significance of this toxicity test result should be addressed in relation to the other toxicity tests, in which no toxicity was observed, with special emphasis on the in vivo test. Given this, the overall toxicity analyses support the conclusion that nano-scale cellulose fibrils can be considered to be safe towards humans. However, the reason for the positive cytotoxicity test result and, in addition, the effect of the biocide used in sample preservation on the toxicity tests need to be clarified before generalizing these results and declaring nanocellulose to be unambiguously safe.

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