- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
In this chapter, we turn our attention to an issue that is often not based on rational science, but about fear—the issue of asbestos. As the geological community is well aware, all asbestos are minerals, and thus naturally formed; yet in the public arena, many people believe asbestos is something manufactured by humans and that one fiber is enough to kill you if inhaled. It is the intent of this chapter to provide background information for members of differing communities, be they mineralogists, geologists, medical researchers, regulatory workers, or legal professionals to better understand amphibole-related health and environmental issues. This chapter contains an introduction and overview of the health effects associated with the inhalation of amphibole minerals. Also, the chapter will discuss some of the current issues and research trends surrounding asbestos exposure, especially in the natural environment.
At the outset, anyone with knowledge of this field probably wonders why the word asbestos does not appear in the title of this article. As we will see as we progress through this article, there is a debate between the various scientific and regulatory disciplines on the definition of the word asbestos. What is well known and accepted by all is that the occupational exposure to asbestiform amphibole leads to a significant increase in asbestos-related diseases, especially mesothelioma. What is not clear is how the morphology of amphiboles affects the etiology of the disease. However, because the morphology of amphiboles is at least partially gradational from the high aspect-ratio (which is the length divided by the width of a particle) fibrous particles to the low aspect-ratio, nonfibrous particles, we might also assume that the etiology of the diseases might vary.
In this chapter, we will define terminology used by the different fields of study. It is important for those working in any …