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The health risk of chrysotile asbestos

Bernstein, David M.


During the editing process of the recent article by Bernstein [1], the conflicts of interest statement was wrongly amended from ‘No conflicts of interest relevant to this article’ to ‘There are no conflicts of interest.’ The publisher apologises for this error.

Dr Bernstein would like to take this opportunity to clarify that he works as a scientific consultant to the chrysotile asbestos industry and gives presentations worldwide on the science of chrysotile asbestos. In the last three years he has received payment for his consultancy services from: Honeywell, International Chrysotile Association and Zimbabwe National Chrysotile Taskforce.

Dr Bernstein received no payment, compensation or funding for the current article [1]. The article is solely his work and the opinions stated therein are his own.

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine. 20(5):525, September 2014.

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: July 2014 - Volume 20 - Issue 4 - p 366–370
doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000064
DISEASES OF THE PLEURA: Edited by Richard W. Light

Purpose of review The word asbestos is a poorly attributed term, as it refers to two very different minerals with very different characteristics. One is the serpentine mineral of which the white asbestos, chrysotile, is the most common. The other is the amphibole asbestos, which includes the blue asbestos crocidolite and the brown asbestos amosite. Although today chrysotile is the only type used commercially, the legacy of past use of amphibole asbestos remains. This review clarifies the differences between the two mineral families referred to as asbestos and summarizes the scientific basis for understanding the important differences in the toxicology and epidemiology of these two minerals.

Recent findings Biopersistence and sub-chronic inhalation toxicology studies have shown that exposure to chrysotile at up to 5000 times the current threshold limit value (0.1 fibers/cm3) produces no pathological response. These studies demonstrate as well that following short-term exposure the longer chrysotile fibers rapidly clear from the lung and are not observed in the pleural cavity. In contrast, short-term exposure to amphibole asbestos results quickly in the initiation of a pathological response in the lung and the pleural cavity.

Summary Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that influence inhalation toxicology studies of fibers and epidemiological studies of workers. Evaluation of the toxicology and epidemiology studies of chrysotile indicates that it can be used safely under controlled use. In contrast, even short-term exposure to amphibole asbestos can result in disease.

Consultant in Toxicology, Geneva, Switzerland

Correspondence to David M. Bernstein, Consultant in Toxicology, 1208 Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: +41 227350043; e-mail:

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins