a Curriculum in Toxicology , University of North Carolina School of Medicine , Chapel Hill , North Carolina , USA.
In former mine workers of Libby, MT, exposure to amphibole-containing vermiculite was linked to increased rates of asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Although many studies showed adverse effects following exposure to Libby amphibole (LA; a mixture of winchite, richterite, and tremolite), little is known regarding the relative toxicity of LA compared to regulated asbestos, or regarding the risks associated with acute high-dose exposures relative to repeated low-dose exposures. In this study, pulmonary function, inflammation, and pathology were assessed after single or multiple intratracheal (IT) exposures of LA or a well-characterized amosite (AM) control fiber with equivalent fiber characteristics. Male F344 rats were exposed to an equivalent total mass dose (0.15, 0.5, 1.5, or 5 mg/rat) of LA or AM administered either as a single IT instillation, or as multiple IT instillations given every other week over a 13-wk period, and necropsied up to 20 mo after the initial IT. When comparing the two fiber types, in both studies LA resulted in greater acute neutrophilic inflammation and cellular toxicity than equal doses of AM, but long-term histopathological changes were approximately equivalent between fibers, suggesting that LA is at least as toxic as AM. In addition, although no dose-response relationship was discerned, mesothelioma or lung carcinomas were found after exposure to low and high dose levels of LA or AM in both studies. Conversely, when comparing studies, an equal mass dose given over multiple exposures instead of a single bolus resulted in greater chronic pathological changes in lung at lower doses, despite the initially weaker acute inflammatory response. Overall, these results suggest that there is a possibility of greater long-term pathological changes with repeated lower LA dose exposures, which more accurately simulates chronic environmental exposures.