Authors: James Ian Phillips, Jill Murray

Source: Annals Of Occupational Hygiene 2010:54(4):412-16


Anthophyllite asbestos is regulated in terms of the South African asbestos regulations, but it was never commercially mined in South Africa. It was mined in a few countries including Finland, Japan, Australia and the USA. Anthophyllite has been shown to induce mesothelioma in laboratory animals. However, reports of mesothelioma in humans due to exposure to anthophyllite alone are rare. In the English language literature there are only three cases of histologically proven malignant mesothelioma of the pleura of the lung due to anthophyllite exposure. This case report is therefore the fourth in the world and the first in South Africa. The subject worked in South Africa in the plastics industry for 14 years during which time he was exposed to imported asbestos blankets that were used to insulate machinery. He was almost certainly exposed to talc which is used in many industrial processes including the manufacture of certain plastics. He stopped working in the plastics industry at the age of 41 and died of malignant mesothelioma aged 73. A significant number of anthophyllite asbestos fibres was identified in his lungs. Unfortunately, the type of asbestos in the blankets that insulated the machines in the plastics factory is unknown. Talc can be contaminated with asbestos fibres and the use of talc may be a possible source of asbestos exposure. Talc is used in industries such as paint, rubber, ceramics, leather, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Good hygiene practices need to be employed when handling talc as in addition to being a potential source of asbestos exposure, it can induce talc pneumoconiosis.