A new report from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts confirms what many scientists have long believed, namely that no type of asbestos is safe and that all types can lead to malignant mesothelioma. In a study of 62 malignant peritoneal mesothelioma patients published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, the researchers found that more than a quarter of the cases of diffuse peritoneal mesothelioma were linked to chrysotile asbestos alone.
The results contradict the argument, made by some companies that mined or used asbestos, that chrysotile asbestos is less deadly than other varieties. In fact, asbestos mineral fibers come in several different types. The most common is the serpentine-shaped chrysotile or white asbestos found in roof tiles, ceilings, walls, and the floors of many older homes and businesses. There are also five amphibole varieties of asbestos including actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite and tremolite. These fibers have a straight shape and used to be prized for their heat resistance.
Although some companies have tried to argue that chrysotile asbestos is less dangerous than amphibole, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the EPA classify all types of asbestos as carcinogenic, capable of causing malignant mesothelioma. After analyzing the medical records and legal cases of 51 men and 11 women with diffuse peritoneal mesothelioma, the Massachusetts General Hospital researchers found that 26 percent of cases were caused by chrysotile asbestos exposure alone.
Among the many mesothelioma cases for people who did not directly work with asbestos, half of them were exposed only to chrysotile asbestos, suggesting that chrysotile, like other types of asbestos, can cause mesothelioma and other cancers.
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