Asbestos and other ferruginous bodies: their formation and clinical significance

Am J Pathol. 1981 Mar;102(3):447-56.


Analyses of asbestos bodies from the general population have confirmed that these structures, like asbestos bodies from the lungs of asbestos workers, contain an asbestos core. In members of the general population this core is almost always an amphibole, whereas asbestos workers may have bodies formed on either amphibole or chrysotile. Most adults have a few bodies, and increasing numbers are seen in blue collar workers and others who handle small amounts of the fiber, with the highest levels being seen in asbestos workers. In men with minimal or extensive occupational exposure, asbestos bodies are formed on the commercial fibers, amosite and crocidolite, whereas women also form a significant number of bodies on the noncommercial fibers, anthophyllite and tremolite. These findings suggest that women may be exposed to specific asbestos-containing products, eg, cosmetic talc. The commercial fibers found in women and white collar men probably reflect atmospheric pollution with asbestos. At the highest levels of exposure, numbers of asbestos bodies correlate in a general way with the presence of asbestosis, although no precise value has been determined above which asbestosis is always found. In persons with much lower or environmental exposure, there does not appear to be any correlation between numbers of bodies and disease, in particular between numbers of bodies and carcinoma of the lung or gastrointestinal tract. The situation for mesothelioma is uncertain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos / analysis*
  • Dust*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Humans
  • Iron / analysis
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / etiology
  • Metalloproteins / analysis*
  • Minerals
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Particle Size
  • Talc / adverse effects
  • Talc / analysis


  • Dust
  • Metalloproteins
  • Minerals
  • Asbestos
  • Talc
  • Iron