Comparative health effects in mice of Libby amphibole asbestos and a fibrous amphibole from Arizona

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This project developed from studies demonstrating that Libby Amphibole Asbestos (LAA) causes a non-typical set of health outcomes not generally reported for asbestos, including systemic autoimmunity and an unusual and devastating lamellar pleural thickening that progresses to severe pulmonary dysfunction and death. Further, mineral fiber mixtures with some similarities to LAA have recently been discovered in southern Nevada and northwestern Arizona, where the material exists in extensive recreational areas and is present in yards, roads, parking lots and school yards. The objective was to compare the health outcomes in mice exposed to either LAA or the fibrous amphiboles collected in Arizona at the Lake Mead National Recreational Area at very low doses to represent environmental exposures. In this study, the fibrous amphibole asbestos sample from Arizona (AzA) is composed of winchite (69%), actinolite (22%), and non-amphibole minerals (9%) and has a mean aspect ratio of 16.7 ± 0.9. Fibrous amphibole asbestos from Libby (LAA) is composed of winchite (70%), richterite (9%), tremolite (5%), and non-amphibole minerals (16%) with a mean aspect ratio of 8.4 ± 0.7. C57BL/6 mice were exposed by oropharyngeal aspiration to fiber suspensions at a very low dose of 3 μg/mouse. After seven months, both LAA- and AzA-exposed mice had indices of chronic immune dysfunction related to a TH17 cytokine profile, with B cell activation, autoantibody production and proteinuria, suggesting kidney involvement. In addition, both exposures led to significant lung and pleural fibrosis. These data suggest that there is risk of pulmonary disease and autoimmune outcomes with environmental exposure to amphibole asbestos, and that this is not limited to Libby, Montana.HighlightsHealth effects of Arizona versus Libby amphibole asbestos were comparable in mice.Both fibers led to immune changes consistent with autoimmune dysfunction.Both fibers caused significant increases in interstitial and pleural fibrosis.Novel sources of asbestos could pose health risks even at low exposure levels.

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