Carbon nanotubes, which are embedded in materials used in the manufacture of things like tennis rackets, car body panels and bike frames to make them stronger without making them heavier, have been shown to have a similar shape and appearance to asbestos particles.
These carbon molecules have novel properties that make them potentially useful in many applications.
Professor Ken Donaldson, professor of respiratory toxicology at Edinburgh University, warned that while they had not demonstrated that carbon nanotubes actually caused cancer, they thought the Government should take the threat seriously and prevent people from being exposed.
The HSE has now responded by imposing a risk assessment procedure for all work involving carbon nanotubes.
The HSE guidance states: "People who create risk through work activities have a legal duty to understand those risks, and make sure they are kept as low as reasonably practicable."