Adverse Health Effects of Fluoro-Edenitic Fibers

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences . 2006 Sep;1076:778-83. [Link]

Caterina Brunoa,Pietro Combaa and Amerigo Zonaa

a Department of Environment and Primary Prevention, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, I-00161 Rome, Italy

Address for correspondence: Caterina Bruno, M.D., Department of Environment and Primary Prevention, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, I-00161 Rome, Italy. Voice: +39-06-49902461; fax: +39-06-49902999.  e-mail:


Subsequent to the detection of a cluster of mesothelioma cases in the Sicilian town of Biancavilla, located at the slopes of Etna volcano, ad hoc epidemiological studies and environmental monitoring suggested an etiological role of an asbestiform fiber present in a stone quarry. The fiber was shown to constitute a new mineral species named fluoro-edenite. Fluoro-edenitic fibers were found in the materials extracted from the quarry and used in the local building industry, as well as in soils. Besides the risk of mesothelioma, residents in Biancavilla showed a significantly increased mortality from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which was particularly evident among women. In the light of these findings, Biancavilla was defined a site of national interest for environmental reclamation. The first preventive action involved termination of quarrying activity, covering with asphalt of roads previously paved with local soil materials, and removal of sources of dust in the urban area. Concurrent to the implementation of environmental cleanup, some specific “second generation” studies are now being designed and performed, namely morbidity surveys based on hospital discharge cards, monitoring of fibers in sputum and health surveillance in selected population groups. In this frame, special emphasis is given to the issue of communication, both to the general public and to target groups like family doctors, teachers, and media professionals. This experience could represent a useful basis for the elaboration of a strategy to approach similar environmental issues.