Environmental occurrence, origin, physical and geochemical properties, and carcinogenic potential of erionite near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Environ Geochem Health. 2014 Jun;36(3):517-29. doi: 10.1007/s10653-013-9578-z. Epub 2013 Nov 24.


Detailed geologic surveys and different microscopic and analytical techniques were conducted near Tierra Blanca de Abajo where lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma (MM) are the primary causes of death. Results show that erionite-K occurs as a diagenetic product in altered Oligocene-Miocene rhyolitic tuffs. The microscopic structure of erionite minerals shows concentrations of individual fibers in the range of 0.14-0.547 μm in diameter and 2.81-50 μm in length, with a few "bundles" about 0.2-2.5 μm wide by 10-50 μm long. Chemical properties of erionite show Si/Al in the range of 3.23-3.58 (at.%) and T Si in the range of 0.76-0.78 (at.%). Potassium is the dominant cation (K > Ca > Mg > Fe). Associated minerals are heulandite, clinoptilolite, quartz, sanidine, anorthite, smectite and opal. This mineral assemblage formed in the lower part of an open catchment, where bicarbonate-rich (T > 30 °C, pH > 8) groundwater discharge conditions prevailed in the past. The physical and chemical characteristics of erionite near San Miguel de Allende are similar to those of erionite from the Cappadocian region of Turkey where erionite is associated with MM. The presence of erionite and the type of respiratory diseases that occur in the village strongly suggest the need for detailed health-based studies in the region. Pliocene-Holocene fine-grain deposits, used in the past for the construction of adobe-houses and exposed in recreational areas, also contain erionite associated with erosion and alluvial transport from the rhyolitic tuffs, potentially affecting more than 13 villages located downstream toward the Allende Dam.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Geology
  • Mexico
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Zeolites / analysis*
  • Zeolites / toxicity


  • Carcinogens
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • erionite
  • Zeolites