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Instant insight: asbestos comes naturally.
Chem Sci 2008 Dec; 5(12):C93
Recently, we have started to view the environment as a source of substances likely to be harmful to human health. A high-profile example of this 'natural pollution' is the contamination of groundwater by arsenic from natural sources in Bangladesh and India. Another, less well-known problem is asbestos that occurs naturally in rock. Naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) is the name given to the silicate minerals serpentine and amphibole that, in certain environmental conditions, form exceedingly thin crystals in parallel alignment - with the appearance of cotton or silk. The term NOA can also be used to describe different minerals that crystallise in a finely fibrous manner resembling asbestos, and minerals that can produce elongated particles when broken or crushed. The most significant risk from NOA is serious illness that may occur through exposure through inhalation. NOA is an issue of study, debate and concern within the affected areas of the US today, and also for some countries around the Mediterranean, such as Italy and Turkey, where NOA is relatively common. However, the widespread occurrence of these minerals suggests that this matter will become an issue for many other countries in the future.
Pollutants; Pollution; Asbestos-dust; Asbestos-fibers; Asbestosis; Environmental-contamination; Environmental-exposure; Environmental-factors; Environmental-hazards; Environmental-pollution; Minerals; Inhalation-studies; Respiratory-hypersensitivity; Respiratory-irritants; Public-health
Martin Harper, Health Effects Laboratory Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Heath, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505
Journal Article; Trade
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Page last reviewed: October 16, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division