Mesothelioma and asbestos

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2008 Oct;52(1 Suppl):S223-31. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2007.10.003. Epub 2007 Oct 11.


The current state of knowledge concerning mesothelioma risk estimates is reviewed. Estimates of the risk of mesothelioma exist for the commercial asbestos fiber types chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite. Data also exist on which to assess risks for winchite (sodic tremolite) and anthophyllite asbestos. Uncertainty in estimates is primarily related to limitations in measurements of exposure. Differences in the dimensions of the various fiber types and of the same fiber types at different stages of processing add a further complication. Never-the-less, in practical terms, crocidolite presents the highest asbestos related mesothelioma risk. The risk associated with sodic tremolite (winchite) appears to be similar. In chrysotile miners and millers, the mesothelioma risk has been linked with exposure to asbestiform tremolite. Exposure to chrysotile in a pure form seems likely to present a very low if any risk of mesothelioma. While the majority of mesothelial tumors result from exposure to the asbestos minerals, there are other well established and suspected etiological agents. While a practical threshold seems to exist for exposure to chrysotile, it is unlikely to exist for the amphibole asbestos minerals, especially for crocidolite. To date there is no indication of an increased risk of mesothelioma resulting from non-commercial fiber exposure in the taconite industry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Asbestos / classification
  • Asbestos, Amphibole / adverse effects
  • Asbestosis / epidemiology
  • Asbestosis / etiology*
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / adverse effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Iron / adverse effects
  • Mesothelioma / epidemiology
  • Mesothelioma / etiology*
  • Mineral Fibers / adverse effects
  • Mineral Fibers / classification
  • Particle Size
  • Risk Assessment
  • Silicates / adverse effects


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Asbestos, Amphibole
  • Carcinogens, Environmental
  • Mineral Fibers
  • Silicates
  • taconite
  • Asbestos
  • anthophyllite
  • Iron