Journey to the centre of the lung. The perspective of a mineralogist on the carcinogenic effects of mineral fibres in the lungs

Journal of Hazardous Materials 2023 January 15 [Link]

Alessandro F Gualtieri


This work reviews the bio-chemical mechanisms leading to adverse effects produced when mineral fibres are inhaled and transported in the lungs from the perspective of a mineralogist. The behaviour of three known carcinogenic mineral fibres (crocidolite, chrysotile, and fibrous-asbestiform erionite) during their journey through the upper respiratory tract, the deep respiratory tract and the pleural cavity is discussed. These three fibres have been selected as they are the most socially and economically relevant mineral fibres representative of the classes of chain silicates (amphiboles), layer silicates (serpentine), and framework silicates (zeolites), respectively. Comparison of the behaviour of these fibres is made according to their specific crystal-chemical assemblages and properties. Known biological and subsequent pathologic effects which lead and contribute to carcinogenesis are critically reviewed under the mineralogical perspective and in relation to recent progress in this multidisciplinary field of research. Special attention is given to the understanding of the cause-effect relationships for lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. Comparison with interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, or “asbestosis”, will also be made here. This overview highlights open issues, data gaps, and conflicts in the literature for these topics, especially as regards relative potencies of the three mineral fibres under consideration for lung cancer and mesothelioma. Finally, an attempt is made to identify future research lines suitable for a general comprehensive model of the carcinogenicity of mineral fibres.