Last revised by David Luong on 12 Jun 2021

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals from mixture of calcium magnesium, iron, and sodium exploited commercially for their desirable physical properties, particularly their resistance to heat and burning. They all form thin elongated fibrous crystals, and can be manufactured into many forms. Asbestos can be divided into two large groups:

  1. serpentine: wave-like in shape
    • chrysotile
  2. amphibole: needle-like in shape
    • amosite
    • crocidolite (blue asbestos)
    • tremolite
    • anthophyllite
    • actinolite

It is the amphiboles that are responsible for the majority of asbestos related diseases 2. Inhaled asbestos particles lodge in the lung and can penetrate to the pleura and even peritoneum. In the lung parenchyma the needle-like asbestos fibers elicit a chronic low level inflammatory reaction with neutrophils and macrophages releasing compounds that damage lung parenchyma and eventually lead to asbestosis 2

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: asbestos - crocidolite (blue asbestos)
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  • Figure 2: ferruginous body (asbestos)
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  • Figure 3: asbestos - anthophyllite
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  • Case 1: mesothelioma
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