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Environ Health Perspect. 1983 Nov;53:121-30.

Review of published studies on gut penetration by ingested asbestos fibers.


During the 1970s, potential health risks associated with exposure to asbestos in drinking water became a national concern. One of the key questions that arose from debate over whether ingestion of mineral fibers could result in increased gastrointestinal cancer risk was whether fibers can penetrate the gastrointestinal mucosa and thus have some chance of residing in tissue. It is likely that such movement of a large number of fibers is a necessary precursor for carcinogenesis following ingestion of asbestos. Studies of the potential for fiber accumulation in tissues and body fluids following introduction of asbestos to the alimentary canal have provided seemingly contradictory observations. This review, which places particular emphasis on the impact of experimental and analytical limitations on the evidential strengths of each study, indicates the likelihood that a very small fraction of ingested microscopic asbestos fibers penetrates the gastrointestinal mucosa. A reliable estimate of the magnitude of long-term fiber retention in tissues as a consequence of chronic human ingestion of asbestos cannot be made at this time.

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