From the blog

Measuring the Toxicity of Asbestos

Published: August 26, 2016

It is a well-known fact that the naturally-occurring mineral asbestos is a carcinogen; linked to lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.  Once industrial workers began to suffer the effects of asbestos years after being exposed, studies began to focus on the toxicity of the substance. Scientists know that exposure alone is the cause for many asbestos related diseases, but current studies now show that the way asbestos is prepared can also impact and increase chances of getting an asbestos-related disease.

At the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine researchers focused on grinding asbestos using two techniques: with water, and without. Chrysotile asbestos, the most commonly used asbestos today, was ground with water and without water for 5-30 minutes. Using mice as the subjects, peritoneal macrophages were harvested. This type of immune cell was then exposed to both types of the chrysotile asbestos. As the macrophages reacted more negatively to the dry grinding methods, scientists noticed that the surface concentration of iron was up to seven times greater.

The higher production of iron in the fibers is relevant because the greater the iron level, the higher the production of reactive oxygen species; an element that is known to affect the progression of mesothelioma. However, the mineralogical properties of asbestos did not change. The study concludes that fiber toxicity is greatly affected by the way that asbestos is prepared, with dry-grounding being more dangerous than wet. Scientists and researchers agree that when dealing with asbestos, preparation conditions now must be taken into consideration since toxicity levels will vary. In understanding the properties and compounds of asbestos, scientists will be able to better under mesothelioma: from diagnosis, to research, to treatment.



Salamatipour A, Mohanty SK, Pietrofesa RA, Vann DR, Christofidou-Solomidou M, Willenbring JK.  2016.  Asbestos fiber preparation methods affect fiber toxicityEnvironmental Science & Technology Letters. 3:270-274. [Link]

Alex Strauss, “Asbestos Preparation Impacts Mesothelioma Risk,” Surviving Mesothelioma (August 24, 2016). [Link]

PR Web, “Scientists Say How Asbestos is Prepared Can Impact Its Ability to Cause Malignant Mesothelioma, According to Surviving Mesothelioma,” (August 26, 2016). [Link]

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