Health Effects of Asbestos and Nonasbestos Fibers

Quoted from http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.00108s4665

Health Effects of Asbestos and Nonasbestos Fibers

Omowunmi Y.O. Osinubi, Michael Gochfeld, Howard M. Kipen

UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA

Abstract

Exposures to asbestos and synthetic fibers remain areas of great concern in the field of occupational lung disease. Despite extensive study, the health effects associated with fibers remains an area of substantial controversy. In particular, effects of fibers at relatively low doses, particularly for mesothelioma, remain a matter of evolving opinion, especially when integrated with the divergence of opinion on relative pathogenicity of different fiber types. Mechanistic studies continue to provide a window into pathogenesis and some hope for understanding dose-response relationships at the lower levels seen in contemporary Western workplaces and the general environment. Changes in clinical assessment based on use of new chest imaging techniques beyond the traditional plain film are also an area of evolution and begin to challenge B-reading as the definitive tool for noninvasive assessment of disease. Public health concerns have to a great extent been transported to the developing world where there is a strong trend toward increased use of asbestos, although it has been virtually eliminated from commerce in most developed countries. For nonasbestos fibers, the major unsettled issues are their relative potencies as carcinogens for the human lung and mesothelium and the need to sort out the relation between physical and chemical properties of these fibers and their pathogenicity. The recent discovery of “flock worker’s lung” due to synthetic fibers once again alerts us to emerging diseases associated with new technologies.

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