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Asbestos-Like Fibers and Pleural Mesothelioma Risk

Erionite-161794There is mounting evidence that asbestos is not the only fiber capable of triggering deadly malignant mesothelioma.

In a new article published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, a team of Italian doctors offer a closer look at two “up and coming” agents that are also potential causes of mesothelioma.

Asbestos and Mesothelioma

Although there was evidence that people who worked with asbestos were contracting serious illnesses including asbestosis and lung cancer as early as the 1040s, it was not until 1960 that a pivotal study demonstrated a “causal connection” between the mineral asbestos and pleural mesothelioma.

In a paper called “Diffuse Pleural Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in North Western Cape Province”, Dr. JC Wagner and his team detailed the characteristics of the strange cancer that was killing South African asbestos workers and residents.

Today, scientists understand that the unique size and shape of asbestos fibers make it difficult for the body to rid itself of the fibers. Over time, the irritation and inflammation they cause can lead to mesothelioma.

Other Causes of Mesothelioma

Unfortunately, certain fibers with asbestos-like qualities may also cause similar physical reactions and eventually trigger mesothelioma.

One of these compounds is fluoro-edenite, a mineral discovered in 1997 and found primarily in volcanic formations in Italy and Japan.

Another recent addition to the list of mesothelioma-causing agents is the carbon nanotube. This manmade molecule that can stregthen car parts and baseball bats is also just the right size and shape to lodge in the lungs if inhaled.

Avoiding Mesothelioma Triggers

A growing understanding and use of carbon nanotubes highlights the fact that, just because a worker is not working directly with asbestos, does not necessarily mean that the job does not pose a danger of mesothelioma.

“The data presented herein support the notion that occupational exposure to these two types of fibre contributes to the development of different types of cancer,” writes study author Edoardo Miozzi of Italy’s University of Messina.

People who live or work around asbestos-like minerals or with carbon nanotubes should be aware of the potential for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma affects an estimated 2500 Americans every years and tens of thousands more around the world.

Source: Miozzi, E, et al, “Fluoro-edenite and carbon nanotubes: The health impact of ‘asbestos-like’ fibres”, January 2016, Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, pp 21 – 27

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