State-of-the-science Assessment of Non-Asbestos Amphibole Exposure: Is There a Cancer Risk?

Publication Information:

Williams, Cris, Linda Dell, Robert Adams, Tracie Rose, and Drew Van Orden. 2013. “State-of-the-science assessment of non-asbestos amphibole exposure: Is there a cancer risk?” Environmental Geochemistry and Health 35, no. 3 (June): 357-77.

Year: 2012

Topics: EH&S, Mining & Minerals

The distinction between amphibole asbestos fibers and non-asbestos amphibole particles has important implications for assessing potential cancer risks associated with exposure to amphibole asbestos or amphibole-containing products. Exposure to amphibole asbestos fibers can pose a cancer risk due to its ability to reside for long periods of time in the deep lung (i.e., biopersistence). In contrast, non-asbestos amphibole particles are usually cleared rapidly from the lung and do not pose similar respiratory risks even at high doses. Most regulatory and public health agencies, as well as scientific bodies, agree that non-asbestos amphiboles possess reduced biological (e.g., carcinogenic) activity. Although non-asbestos amphibole minerals have been excluded historically from Federal regulations, non-asbestos structures may be counted as asbestos fibers on the basis of dimensional criteria specified in analytical protocols. Given the potential to mischaracterize a non-asbestos structure as a “true” asbestos fiber, our objective was to assess whether exposure to non-asbestos amphiboles that may meet the dimensional criteria for counting as a fiber pose a cancer risk similar to amphibole asbestos. We reviewed analytical methods as well as the mineralogical, epidemiological, and toxicological literature for non-asbestos amphiboles. No evidence of demonstrable cancer effects from exposure to non-asbestos amphiboles that may be counted as fibers, under certain assessment protocols, was found. Data gaps (industrial hygiene data for amphibole-exposed cohorts), inconsistencies (analytical laboratory methods/protocols used to count fibers), and sources of potential bias from misclassification of exposure were identified.