South African experience with asbestos related environmental mesothelioma: Is asbestos fiber type important?

Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology . 2007 Oct 5 [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

White N, Nelson G, Murray J.

UCT Lung Institute and Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, P.O. Box 34560, Groote Schuur 7937, South Africa.


South Africa (SA), a country in which all three commercially important asbestos minerals have been mined and milled, has retained proven cases of mesothelioma linked with environmental exposure to asbestos. This study illustrates the importance of fiber type in the occurrence of environmental mesothelioma. Four studies have reviewed the source of occupational or environmental asbestos exposure in 504 histologically proven cases of mesothelioma in South Africa. One hundred and eighteen cases (23%) were thought to be related to environmental exposure to asbestos. In the vast majority of these cases, exposure was linked to crocidolite mining activities in the Northern Cape Province. Two cases were thought to have occurred in relation to amosite and Transvaal crocidolite exposure in the Limpopo Province. In the balance of cases there was some uncertainty. No cases were reported with exposure to South African chrysotile. Consequently, in the vast majority of cases of mesothelioma, environmental exposure to asbestos occurred in the Northern Cape Province, in proximity to mines, mills and dumps where crocidolite was processed. Crocidolite appears to be far more mesotheliomagenic than amosite, and chrysotile has not been implicated in the disease. This is true for both occupationally and environmentally exposed individuals.

Keywords: Crocidolite; Mesothelioma; Chrysotile; Amosite; South Africa