Erionite is a human and animal carcinogen and one of the most toxic minerals known. Erionite deposits have been reported in many countries; however, it is only in the area of three villages of Cappadocia, Turkey, that environmental exposure to erionite has been demonstrated to be the cause of an epidemic of the disease mesothelioma. In the USA, no cases of mesothelioma have been reliably proven to be the result of erionite exposure, though the possibility exists. Erionite samples from three villages of the Cappadocia region were characterized mineralogically and compared with three different standards from the USA. Micro morphological details of erionite minerals using a high-resolution field-emission SEM showed that microstructures of “bundles”, “fibers”, and “fibrils” are important physical properties of fibrous erionite minerals. Typical lung burden of erionite and asbestos fibers were compared in terms of number of fibers. Assuming the lung burden of fibers in a human mesothelioma victim is about 1 mg, and the hazardous fibers are approximately 1 μm in diameter and 10 μm long, that milligram contains approximately 40 million asbestos and 50 million erionite fibers. These microstructures of erionite minerals draw attention to the concepts of surface area or surface-area-to-volume ratio and their relationship to the carcinogenicity of the mineral. The larger surface area creates a wider platform for mineral–cell interaction and thus more possibilities of proliferative transformation of mesothelial cells. Consequently, understanding the exact mineralogical properties will help determination of the true carcinogenic mechanism(s) of the mineral for prevention and possibly treatment of malignant mesothelioma.
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The authors gratefully acknowledge Professors Robert L. Brenner of University of Iowa, USA, Wayne Criss of Hacettepe University, and Semra Sardas of Marmara University, Turkey; and anonymous reviewers for critically reading the manuscript. Their critiques helped to improve the manuscript.
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Dogan, A.U., Dogan, M. & Hoskins, J.A. Erionite series minerals: mineralogical and carcinogenic properties. Environ Geochem Health 30, 367–381 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-008-9165-x
- Carcinogenic properties
- Mineralogical properties