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Chrysotile as a Cause of Mesothelioma: An Assessment Based on Epidemiology

Charles M. Yarborough, Exponent, Inc., New York, New York, USA

There has been a longstanding debate about the potential contribution of chrysotile asbestos fibers to mesothelioma risk. The failure to resolve this debate has hampered decisive risk communication in the aftermath of the collapse of theWorld Trade Center towers and has influenced judgments about bans on asbestos use. A firm understanding of any health risks associated with natural chrysotile fibers is crucial for regulatory policy and future risk assessments of synthesized nanomaterials. Although epidemiological studies have confirmed amphibole asbestos fibers as a cause of mesothelioma, the link with chrysotile remains unsettled. An extensive review of the epidemiological cohort studies was undertaken to evaluate the extent of the evidence related to free chrysotile fibers, with particular attention to confounding by other fiber types, job exposure concentrations, and consistency of findings. The review of 71 asbestos cohorts exposed to free asbestos fibers does not support the hypothesis that chrysotile, uncontaminated by amphibolic substances, causes mesothelioma. Today, decisions about risk of chrysotile for mesothelioma in most regulatory contexts reflect public policies, not the application of the scientific method as applied to epidemiological cohort studies.

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