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Research Article
1 October 1985

Health implications of environmental exposure to asbestos.

Publication: Environmental Health Perspectives
Volume 62
Pages 319 - 328

Abstract

The health impact of environmental pollution resulting from the industrial use of asbestos can be assessed in three ways. First, there are the direct epidemiological surveys. These indicate that domestic exposure has been responsible for cases of mesothelioma and possibly lung cancer and radiological changes in family contacts of asbestos workers. Exposure in the neighborhood of crocidolite mines and factories has also resulted in cases of mesothelioma but no similar evidence exists for chrysotile or amosite. Neither air nor water pollution has been directly incriminated as a cause of either respiratory or digestive malignancies. Second, a few attempts have been made to extrapolate from exposure response findings in industrial cohorts. For several reasons, even for lung cancer, this approach is dubious: the observed gradients have a 100-fold range in slope; the equivalences of dust, fiber and gravimetric measures are largely guesswork; and the carcinogenic potential of mineral fibers, particularly for the pleura, varies enormously with fiber type and/or dimensions. No adequate exposure-response observations have been made for mesothelioma. A third approach makes use of the differing incidence of mesothelioma in men and women. Data from several countries indicate that, until the 1950s (i.e., 30-40 years after significant industrial use of asbestos began), the rates were similar in both sexes. Since then, the incidence in males has risen steeply--in the U.S. and U.K. at about 10% per annum. In females, on the other hand, there has been little or no convincing increase. These data suggest that the "background" level of mesothelioma in both sexes is and has been about 2 per million per annum and that--as at least some mesothelioma cases in females are directly or indirectly attributable to occupational exposure--there is little room left for any contribution from the general environment. It is recommended that mesothelioma surveillance, backed by appropriate epidemiological inquiries, offers an effective method of monitoring the health impact of asbestos air pollution.

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Environmental Health Perspectives
Volume 62October 1985
Pages: 319 - 328
PubMed: 4085437

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Published online: 1 October 1985

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  • An updated evaluation of reported no-observed adverse effect levels for chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite asbestos for lung cancer and mesothelioma, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 10.1080/10408444.2023.2283169, 53, 10, (611-657), (2023).
  • Pleural Malignancy–Challenges in Diagnosis and Multidisciplinary Approach, Seminars in Roentgenology, 10.1053/j.ro.2023.07.002, 58, 4, (420-430), (2023).
  • Occupational exposure to asbestos in the steel industry (1972–2006), Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 10.1038/s41370-023-00576-4, (2023).
  • Talc, Patty's Toxicology, 10.1002/0471125474.tox013.pub3, (1-14), (2023).
  • Projection of future numbers of mesothelioma cases in the US and the increasing prevalence of background cases: an update based on SEER data for 1975 through 2018, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 10.1080/10408444.2022.2082919, 52, 4, (317-324), (2022).
  • Evaluation of asbestos exposure resulting from simulated application of spiked talcum powders, Inhalation Toxicology, 10.1080/08958378.2022.2132324, 34, 13-14, (380-398), (2022).
  • Extracellular Vesicles: A Novel Opportunity for Precision Medicine in Respiratory Diseases, Frontiers in Medicine, 10.3389/fmed.2021.661679, 8, (2021).
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  • Estimate of environmental and occupational components in the spatial distribution of malignant mesothelioma incidence in Lombardy (Italy), Environmental Research, 10.1016/j.envres.2020.109691, 188, (109691), (2020).
  • Environmental and Occupational Exposure to Asbestos as a Result of Consumption and Use in Poland, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10.3390/ijerph16142611, 16, 14, (2611), (2019).

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