Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 72
This report is an assessment of all available literature that pertains to the potential risk of cancer associated with ingestion of asbestos. It was compiled by a working group to assist policy makers in the Department of Health and Human Services determine if adequate information was available for a definitive risk assessment on this potential problem and evaluate if the weight of evidence was sufficient to prioritize this issue for new policy recommendations. The work group considered the basis for concern over this problem, the body of toxicology experiments, the individual epidemiologic studies which have attempted to investigate this issue, and the articles that discuss components of risk assessment pertaining to the ingestion of asbestos. In the report, the work group concluded: 1) that no direct, definitive risk assessment can be conducted at this time; 2) that further epidemiologic investigations will be very costly and only possess sufficient statistical power to detect relatively large excesses in cancers related to asbestos ingestion; and 3) that probably the most pertinent toxicologic experiments relate to resolving the differences in how inhaled asbestos, which is eventually swallowed, is biologically processed by humans, compared to how ingested asbestos is processed. The work group believes that the cancer risk associated with asbestos ingestion should not be perceived as one of the most pressing potential public health hazards facing the nation. However, the work group does not believe that information was sufficient to assess the level of cancer risks associated with the ingestion and therefore, this potential hazard should not be discounted, and ingestion exposure to asbestos should be eliminated whenever possible.
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