Amosite Asbestos was previously tested in Syrian Golden Hamsters administered in feed (See TR-249, reported 1983).
The term "asbestos" has a commercial/industrial derivation limited to naturally occurring fibrous minerals of the serpentine or amphibole series. Chrysotile is the only type of asbestos in the serpentine series, whereas the amphibole series is represented by actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and tremolite. The essential characteristic of asbestos minerals is their fibrous nature.
Large portions of the population ingest asbestos through consumption of food and water. Asbestos or asbestos-like fibers may gain access to water supplies as a result of mining (Lake Superior), from the presence of natural serpentine or amphibole deposits in watersheds (Seattle, WA, and San Francisco, CA) or, under certain conditions, through the use of asbestos-cement pipes for municipal water supplies. For the latter, erosion of the pipe with release of fibers is associated with the "aggressiveness" of the water, a term representing a mathematical expression of pH, alkalinity, and calcium content. The EPA estimated that 68.5% of water systems in the United States utilize water that is potentially capable of eroding asbestos-cement pipe.
Carcinogenesis studies of amosite asbestos alone or in combination with the intestinal carcinogen 1,2-dimethylhydrazine dihydrochloride (DMH) were conducted in male and female rats. Amosite asbestos was administered at a concentration of 1% in pelleted diet for the entire lifetime of the rats, starting with the dams of the study animals. One group of amosite asbestos-exposed rats (amosite preweaning gavage) also received chrysotile asbestos via gavage during lactation. Group sizes varied from 100 to 250. Litter size was the same, but the offspring from mothers exposed to amosite asbestos were smaller at weaning than those from nonexposed mothers and remained smaller throughout their life. The DMH was administered by gavage at a dose of 7.5 mg/kg for males and 15 mg/kg for females every 14 days, starting at 8 weeks of age, for a total of five doses. The administration of DMH did not affect body weight gain either in amosite-exposed or nonexposed animals.
The amosite-exposed rats showed enhanced survival compared with that of the nonexposed rats. DMH exposure reduced survival by approximately 1 year, although the survival of the amosite plus DMH groups was slightly greater than that of the DMH group alone.
Significant increases in the incidences of C-cell carcinomas of the thyroid gland (untreated control, 11/117; amosite, 50/246, P<0.05; amosite preweaning gavage, 14/100) and of leukemia (38/117; 106/249, P<0.05; 49/100, P<0.01) in male rats were observed in amosite-exposed groups. However, the biologic significance of the C-cell carcinomas in relation to amosite asbestos exposure is discounted because of a lack of significance when C-cell adenomas and carcinomas were combined and because the positive effect was not observed in the amosite preweaning gavage group. The biologic significance of an increased incidence of leukemia is questionable because of a lack of statistical significance in the amosite group when evaluated by life table analysis and because no toxic lesions were observed in the target organs, i.e., gastrointestinal tract and mesothelium.
DMH caused a high incidence (62%-74%) of intestinal neoplasia in amosite-exposed and nonexposed groups. Neither an enhanced carcinogenic nor a protective effect was demonstrated by exposure to amosite asbestos.
Conclusions: Under the conditions of these feed studies, amosite asbestos was not overtly toxic, did not affect survival, and was not carcinogenic when ingested at a concentration of 1% in the diet by male or female F344/N rats. The cocarcinogenic studies using DMH were considered inadequate because of the high incidence of DMH-induced intestinal neoplasia in both the amosite asbestos-exposed and nonexposed groups.