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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1991 Aug;14(1):12-23.

Carcinogenicity of the insulation wools: reassessment of the IARC evaluation.

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MRC Toxicology Unit, Medical Research Council Laboratories, Carshalton, Surrey, United Kingdom.


In assessing the health evidence concerning man-made mineral fibers, the chemical composition, surface activity, durability, and size of fibers have to be taken into account. Special-purpose fine glass fibers need to be separated from the insulation wools (glass, rock, and slag wool). The epidemiological evidence is sufficient to conclude that there has been no mesothelioma risk to workers producing or using glass wool, rock wool, or slag wool. The epidemiological studies have been large and powerful, and they show no evidence of a cause-effect relationship between lung cancer and exposure to glass wool, rock wool, or slag wool fibers. There is some evidence of a small cancer hazard attached to the manufacturing process in slag wool plants 20 to 50 years ago, when asbestos was used in some products and other carcinogenic substances were present. However, this hazard is not associated with any index of exposure to slag wool itself. Animal inhalation studies of ordinary insulation wools also show that there is no evidence of hazard associated with exposure to these relatively coarse, soluble fibers. The evidence of carcinogenicity is limited to experiments with special-purpose fine durable glass fibers or experimental fibers, and only when these fibers are injected directly into the pleural or peritoneal cavity. Multiple chronic inhalation studies of these same special-purpose fine glass fibers have not produced evidence of carcinogenicity. It is suggested that the present IARC evaluation of the carcinogenic risk of insulation wools should be revised to Category 3: not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans.

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