Assessment of asbestos body formation by high resolution FEG-SEM after exposure of Sprague-Dawley rats to chrysotile, crocidolite, or erionite

J Hazard Mater. 2016 Apr 5;306:95-104. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2015.11.050. Epub 2015 Dec 11.


This work presents a comparative FEG-SEM study of the morphological and chemical characteristics of both asbestos bodies and fibres found in the tissues of Sprague-Dawley rats subjected to intraperitoneal or intrapleural injection of UICC chrysotile, UICC crocidolite and erionite from Jersey, Nevada (USA), with monitoring up to 3 years after exposure. Due to unequal dosing based on number of fibres per mass for chrysotile with respect to crocidolite and erionite, excessive fibre burden and fibre aggregation during injection that especially for chrysotile would likely not represent what humans would be exposed to, caution must be taken in extrapolating our results based on instillation in experimental animals to human inhalation. Notwithstanding, the results of this study may help to better understand the mechanism of formation of asbestos bodies. For chrysotile and crocidolite, asbestos bodies are systematically formed on long asbestos fibres. The number of coated fibres is only 3.3% in chrysotile inoculated tissues. In UICC crocidolite, Mg, Si, and Fe are associated with the fibres whereas Fe, P and Ca are associated with the coating. Even for crocidolite, most of the observed fibres are uncoated as coated fibres are about 5.7%. Asbestos bodies do not form on erionite fibres. The crystal habit, crystallinity and chemistry of all fibre species do not change with contact time, with the exception of chrysotile which shows signs of leaching of Mg. A model for the formation of asbestos bodies from mineral fibres is postulated. Because the three fibre species show limited signs of dissolution in the tissue, they cannot act as source of elements (primarily Fe, P and Ca) promoting nucleation and growth of asbestos bodies. Hence, the limited number of coated fibres should be due to the lack of nutrients or organic nature.

Keywords: Asbestos bodies; FEG–SEM; Fibres; Iron; Rats.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asbestos, Crocidolite / pharmacokinetics*
  • Asbestos, Serpentine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Peritoneum / metabolism
  • Peritoneum / ultrastructure
  • Pleural Cavity / metabolism
  • Pleural Cavity / ultrastructure
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Zeolites / pharmacokinetics*


  • Asbestos, Serpentine
  • Asbestos, Crocidolite
  • erionite
  • Zeolites