Commentary

Asbestos contamination in feldspar extraction sites: a failure of prevention?


Abstract


Fibrous tremolite is a mineral species belonging to the amphibole group. It is present almost everywhere in the world as a natural contaminant of other minerals, like talc and vermiculite. It can be also found as a natural contaminant of the chrysotile form of asbestos. Tremolite asbestos exposures result in respiratory health consequences similar to the other forms of asbestos exposure, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although abundantly distributed on the earth's surface, tremolite is only rarely present in significant deposits and it has  had little commercial use. Significant presence of amphibole asbestos fibers, characterized as tremolite, was identified in mineral powders coming from the milling of feldspar rocks extracted from a Sardinian mining site (Italy). This evidence raises several problems, in particular the prevention of carcinogenic risks for the workers. Feldspar is widespread all over the world and every year it is produced in large quantities and it is used for several productive processes in many manufacturing industries (over 21 million tons of feldspar mined and marketed every year). Until now the presence of tremolite asbestos in feldspar has not been  described, nor has the possibility of such a health hazard for workers involved in mining, milling and handling of rocks from feldspar ores been appreciated. Therefore the need for a wider dissemination of knowledge of these problems among professionals, in particular mineralogists and industrial hygienists, must be emphasized. In fact both disciplines are necessary to plan appropriate environmental controls and adequate protections in order to achieve safe working conditions.

 


Keywords


Tremolite, feldspar, asbestos contamination, extraction sites

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