Problems and Possibilities of Determining the Carcinogenic Potency of Inhalable Fibrous Dusts and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

  • Friedrich Pott
  • René Tomingas
  • Johann Koenig
Part of the Environmental Science Research book series (ESRH, volume 21)


The mechanism of tumor induction by asbestos fibers seems to depend on the elongated shape of the particles (fibers, needles). Thus even non-asbestos fibers may be carcinogenic under certain conditions. A hypothesis is presented describing the gradual transition between the maximal and the minimal carcinogenic potency of fibers in relation to their lengths and diameters. At workplaces there are normally considerable differences between asbestos and vitreous mineral fibers concerning the effective dose, i.e., the carcinogenic potency of a defined concentration of dust. Therefore the substitution of asbestos by man-made mineral fibers is justified from the view of the preventive medicine. However, when using extremely thin glass fibers precaution is necessary.

An essential contribution of the PAH content in the atmosphere to the incidence of lung cancer has not been proven, but this cannot be excluded, particularly in Europe, because of the relatively high PAH concentrations. In the atmosphere much more than 100 PAH are found; however, measuring a few PAH seems to be sufficient for assessing the carcinogenic potency of the PAH content in the atmosphere. An index has been elaborated to characterize the PAH level; the PAH units are based on the concentrations of 5 PAH in the air and on 5 evaluation factors.

The cancer risk for the common people due to inhalation of fibers or PAH cannot be determined scientifically. Consequently there is no possibility of establishing air quality standards. In Germany, however, the establishment of preventive guides for carcinogenic substances has been considered in order to restrict the risk of cancer. cinogenic substances has been considered in order to restrict the risk of cancer.


Evaluation Factor Asbestos Fiber Lung Cancer Incidence Threshold Limit Value Chrysotile Asbestos 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Friedrich Pott
    • 1
    • 2
  • René Tomingas
    • 1
    • 2
  • Johann Koenig
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Medical Institute for Environmental Hygiene at the UniversityDuesseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Fraunhofer-Institute for Toxicology and Aerosol ResearchMuensterGermany

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