The health effects of short fiber chrysotile and amphibole asbestos

Critical Reviews in Toxicology 2022 June 15 [Link]

David M Bernstein


The potential toxic effects of short chrysotile and amphibole asbestos fibers with lengths <5 to ∼10 µm have been debated over the years. This stems from the large database of epidemiology, toxicology, and in-vitro studies, each of which often provides different information in understanding and differentiating the effects of short fibers. The epidemiology studies in which the cancer potency estimates were based upon relatively high exposure concentrations provide a conservative assessment that shorter fibers would have little if any effect, especially under controlled exposure or environmental conditions that may occur today. The QSAR models have shown that fiber aspect ratio and Mg content are excellent predictors of cancer potency and that short fibers/particles of amphibole would have no effect. The studies of motor vehicle mechanics and in particular workers who serviced chrysotile containing brakes with the majority of the fibers being short provides evidence that motor vehicle mechanics, including workers who were engaged in brake repair, are not at an increased risk of mesothelioma. Several inhalation toxicology studies clearly differentiated that short chrysotile and amphibole asbestos fibers did not produce a significant carcinogenic effect in the lung or pleural cavity. Because of dosing and lack of sensitivity to biosolubility, in vitro studies can be difficult to interpret; however, a number have differentiated short chrysotile and amphibole asbestos fibers from long fibers. Integral to understanding the importance of fiber length in determining possible health effects is an understanding of the biological and physiological function of the respiratory system. Short asbestos fibers, like innocuous dust, can be cleared through the tracheobronchial ciliated mucous transport, phagocytized by macrophages and cleared via the bronchial tree, and can also be removed through the lymphatic system. While the first two methods can remove them from the lung, with lymphatic transport through one-way valves, fibers are removed from the active area of the lung where the fiber-related disease has been shown to develop and can accumulate in lymphatic sumps and lymph nodes. While short asbestos fibers are present in most occupational or environmental exposures, the large body of studies strongly supports that they do not contribute to the health effects of asbestos exposure.