Amphibole Asbestos, Erionite Have Adverse Effect on Immune System

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For decades it was believed that mesothelioma, a particularly aggressive form of cancer, was caused exclusively by asbestos exposure. Now, a number of studies suggest that exposure to another mineral known as “erionite” may also cause mesothelioma. Some studies have progressed a step further to suggest that not only are exposure to asbestos and erionite the main causes of mesothelioma, they may also have an adverse effect on the body’s immune system.

A team of researchers from Idaho State University’s (ISU) Department of Biological Sciences and Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) found that:

“Erionite and tremolite caused increased cytokine {nonantibody proteins released by a specific type of cell as part of the body’s immune response} production belonging to the TH17 profile including IL-17, IL-6, TGF-β, and TNF-α. The frequency of ANA was increased in mice treated with erionite or amphibole compared to saline-treated mice. IL-17 and TNF-α were elevated in the sera of mice treated with erionite. The frequency of immune complex deposition in the kidneys increased from 33% in saline-treated mice to 90% with erionite.”

From this, the ISU team concluded that “both erionite and amphibole asbestos induce autoimmune responses in mice, suggesting a potential for adverse effects in exposed communities.” Among other benefits, this discovery may help doctors and researchers detect erionite and asbestos-exposure in the absence of other signs and symptoms which, in many cases, do not appear until decades after exposure.

About Erionite

Erionite is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that belongs to a group of minerals called zeolites. Once considered “full-fledged mineral commodities,” zeolites have been used in everything from pet litter, animal feed, and horticultural applications to oil and gas absorbent, odor control, and water purification, with pet litter, animal feed, and horticultural applications accounting for 65% of all applications.

Although erionite remains unregulated, applications have been somewhat limited to materials used to pave roads. Still, according to a recent report by the National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (NTP), deposits of fibrous erionite can be found in Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah. Erionite fibers have been detected in samples of road dust in Nevada and in erionite-contaminated gravel on roads in North Dakota.

As such, residents of these areas may be exposed to erionite in ambient air, says the NTP, thus increasing the risk of developing mesothelioma.

About Amphibole Asbestos

There are six types of asbestos: amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, actinolite, tremolite, and chrysotile. The first five types are called amphibole asbestos. Although amphibole asbestos is not the most common form of asbestos used in industrial applications (chrysotile, or “white asbestos,” is the most common), it is still considered deadly. Some studies suggest that it is more cancer-causing than chrysotile, while others claim it’s less potent in causing mesothelioma. The topic still remains controversial.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the attorneys at Goldenberg Heller & Antognoli, P.C. can help. Contact us today at 800-782-8492 (toll-free) to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation or click here to email us. We look forward to discussing your case.

100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma, Second EditionSources

  • Harvey I. Pass, MD, NYU School of Medicine and Clinical Cancer Center
  • Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR)
  • American Cancer Society (ACS)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Merriam-Webster, MedlinePlus
  • National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Volume 275, Issue 3, 15 March 2014, Pages 257-264<
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH), PubMed
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