Potential toxicity of nonregulated asbestiform minerals: balangeroite from the western Alps. Part 1: Identification and characterization

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2005 Jan 8;68(1):1-19. doi: 10.1080/15287390590523867.


In the Italian western Alps, asbestos mineralization (both chrysotile and tremolite amphibole) takes place from serpentinites, together with other less common asbestiform minerals not regulated by the current legislation. In the context of a study on the evaluation of the asbestos risk in this area, the possible role played by the associated asbestiform minerals in the overall toxicity of the airborne fraction has been examined. The first mineral investigated was balangeroite [(Mg,Fe2+,Fe3+,Mn2+)42Si16O54(OH)36], an iron-rich asbestiform contaminant of chrysotile from the Balangero mine (Piedmont), which crystallizes as rigid and brittle fibers. In order to prepare a sample in a form appropriate for chemical and cellular tests, the fibers were separated from the rock and comminuted without damage to their crystalline structure and surface state (as confirmed by X-ray diffraction [XRD] and ultraviolet-visible [UV-Vis] spectroscopy). The first properties examined were durability in simulated body fluids (Gamble's solution) and toxicity to epithelial cells. When compared to UICC crocidolite (the amphibole blue asbestos, regarded as the most pathogenic form), balangeroite appears even more durable than crocidolite. Balangeroite and UICC crocidolite showed a similar in vitro cytotoxic effect on a human epithelial cell line, as evidenced by leakage of intracellular lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity, which, observed after a 24-h incubation, was dose dependent and maximal at 12 microg/cm2 for each fiber type. Data show that chemical composition, form, durability, and cell toxicity indicate balangeroite as a potentially harmful fibrous mineral that needs to be examined by further chemical and cellular tests.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos, Serpentine / analysis
  • Asbestos, Serpentine / chemistry*
  • Body Fluids / chemistry
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry, Physical
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mineral Fibers / analysis
  • Mineral Fibers / toxicity*
  • Oxidants / chemistry
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Asbestos, Serpentine
  • Mineral Fibers
  • Oxidants
  • balangeroite
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase