Module Exercise 7: Particulates and fibres, tobacco smoke
1. Discuss the carcinogenic effects of asbestos fibres on the human body.
Asbestos is a product that was increasingly used in the commercial industry in the 20th Century due to its physical characteristics. Typically, asbestos is resistant to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage. Furthermore, it has sound absorption, and is relatively strong. These properties made it a particularly versatile product, particularly for industry. However, since it’s use it has become evident that prolonged inhalation of the fibres from any of the three types of asbestos is particularly harmful to humans and other animals, and has a strong carcinogenic effect, as well as the ability to cause other serious illnesses, including asbestosis.
There are three main types of asbestos that were used and known to have detrimental effects on human health. These asbestos types are:
- White asbestos or chrysotile
- Brown asbestos or amosite
- Blue asbestos or crocidolite
Of the three, blue asbestos has been described as the worst for its’ cancer-causing capabilities. The ability of asbestos to create such illnesses and issues for those that inhale it is in the fibre length that is typical of asbestos products. These fibres are usually long and needle-like and embed themselves in the lungs. In a study conducted by Abraham et al, 1988 it was found that ‘longer thinner chrysotile fibers are relatively less well cleared’ (than shorter thicker chrysotile fibres). This shows just how much of an impact the size and shape of the fibres have on their ability to embed in the lungs. This embedding of the fibres leads to an inflammation of the lungs, known as asbestosis. Today asbestosis is recognised as a precursor to cancer formation within the lungs, and as such, is treated very seriously. In animal studies that have been conducted it was found that ‘ fiber geometry rather than chemistry is the significant factor is...