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Environ Health Perspect. 1990 Aug;88:287-93.

Human epidemiology: a review of fiber type and characteristics in the development of malignant and nonmalignant disease.

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Departments of Preventive Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242.


Consideration of the human epidemiology of diseases arising from exposure to naturally occurring and man-made mineral fibers encompasses the several forms of asbestos (chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite-actinolite), other naturally occurring silicates (talc, sepiolite, erionite, attapulgite, vermiculite, and wollastonite), and man-made mineral fibers (glass continuous filament, glass/rock/slag insulation wools, ceramic and other refractory fibers, and glass microfibers). The diseases arising from exposures to some of these fibers include pleural thickening (plaques, diffuse pleural thickening, and calcification), pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancers, mesothelioma of the pleura and peritoneum, and other cancers). Risk factors important in assessing these diseases include assessment of latency, duration of exposure, cumulative exposure, fiber origin and characteristics (length and diameter), other possible confounding occupational or environmental exposures, and smoking. Methodological issues commonly presenting problems in evaluation of these data include assessment of the adequacy of environmental exposures, particularly in regard to fiber identification, distribution, and concentration over the duration of exposure, and the adequacy of study design to detect health effects (disease frequency, latency, and cohort size). Research priorities include further assessment and standardization of pleural thickening relative to fiber exposure, uniform mesothelioma surveillance, further epidemiological assessment of certain silicate and man-made mineral fiber cohorts with emphasis given to assessment of tremolite and small diameter glass and ceramic fibers. Further assessment of possible health risks of the general public should await improved definition of relevant fiber exposure in ambient air.

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