Asbestos: Modern Insights for Toxicology in the Era of Engineered Nanomaterials

Asbestos fibers are naturally occurring silicates that have been extensively used in the past, including house construction, but because of their toxicity, their use has been banned in 63 countries. Despite this, more than one million metric tons of asbestos are still consumed annually in countries where asbestos use has not been banned. Asbestos-related disease incidence is still increasing in several countries, including those countries that banned the use of asbestos more than 30 years ago. We highlight here recent knowledge obtained in experimental models about the mechanisms leading to tumor development following asbestos exposure, including genetic and epigenetic changes. Importantly, the landscape of alterations observed experimentally in tumor samples is consistent with alterations observed in clinical tumor samples; therefore, studies performed on early/precancer stages should help inform secondary prevention, which remains crucial in the absence of an efficient primary prevention. Knowledge gathered on asbestos should also help address future challenges, especially in view of the increased production of new materials that may behave similarly to asbestos fibers.

Source: Felley-Bosco, E. et MacFarlane, M. (2018). Chemical Research in Toxicology, 31(10), 994-1008.

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