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Mutat Res. 2004 Sep 3;553(1-2):5-9.

An introduction to the short-term toxicology of respirable industrial fibres.

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ELEGI Colt Laboratory, Wilkie Building, Medical School, University of Edinburgh, Teviot Place, EH9 8AG, UK.


Fibrous materials, exemplified by asbestos, that release respirable fibres are in common use and there is considerable knowledge regarding the toxicology of these common fibres. Newer materials or those that are under development, such as synthetic organic fibres and carbon nanotubes may have a different toxicology paradigms. The existing paradigm for silicate fibres suggests that respirable fibre types vary in their ability to cause lung disease and that this can be understood on the basis of the length of the fibres and their biopersistence in the lungs. Because fibres are regulated on a fibre number basis and the hazard is understood on the basis of the number of long fibres, in fibre testing the dose should always be expressed as fibre number, not mass and the length and diameter distribution need to be known. Short-term biological tests are likely to produce false positives in the case of long non-biopersistent fibres, because whilst they may have effects in vitro, they do not persist long enough in the lungs for sufficient dose to build up and produce effects in vivo. The biopersistence of fibres is therefore a key factor that needs to be known in order to interpret short-term tests that may claim to predict fibre pathogenicity.

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