Anthophyllite Asbestos: The Role of Fiber Width in Mesothelioma Induction Part 1: Epidemiological Studies of Finnish Anthophyllite Asbestos

  •  Edward B. Ilgren    
  •  John A. Hoskins    


Anthophyllite asbestos only occurs in a few parts of the world in sufficient quantities to be mined. The largest deposits of anthophyllite asbestos occur in Finland where it was mined for more than 75 years and very extensively used and distributed, anciently, for more than six millennia. Anthophyllite is one of the five minerals known collectively as amphibole asbestos. Studies of the effect of these five mineral fibre types when inhaled have shown that fibre width is an important determinant of mesothelioma induction. Only the “thinner” fibres or those with fiber diameter dimensional profiles predominantly less than 0.25 – 0.30 µm, are clearly mesotheliogenic. The “thicker” ones or those whose predominant widths are greater than these diameters do not appear to show an observable attendant risk of mesothelioma. Observations based on studies of at least, two “thick” forms of amphibole asbestos support these hypotheses. The one is Bolivian crocidolite; the other Finnish anthophyllite. The Finnish anthophyllite industry presents an important opportunity to study the robustness of the theory that fibre width is key to mesothelioma genesis as vast numbers of people in all sectors of the Finnish industry and their families have historically incurred massive fiber exposures sufficient to cause a gross excess of asbestosis. Nonetheless, in spite of these long term, high dose exposures clear evidence for a mesothelioma risk due to anthophyllite asbestos is still lacking.

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