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J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2011;14(1-4):3-39. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2011.556045.

Applying definitions of "asbestos" to environmental and "low-dose" exposure levels and health effects, particularly malignant mesothelioma.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and School of Environment, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Although asbestos research has been ongoing for decades, this increased knowledge has not led to consensus in many areas of the field. Two such areas of controversy include the specific definitions of asbestos, and limitations in understanding exposure-response relationships for various asbestos types and exposure levels and disease. This document reviews the current regulatory and mineralogical definitions and how variability in these definitions has led to difficulties in the discussion and comparison of both experimental laboratory and human epidemiological studies for asbestos. This review also examines the issues of exposure measurement in both animal and human studies, and discusses the impact of these issues on determination of cause for asbestos-related diseases. Limitations include the lack of detailed characterization and limited quantification of the fibers in most studies. Associated data gaps and research needs are also enumerated in this review.

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