Although chrysotile asbestos is a proven human carcinogen, several studies have concluded that these fibers are not mutagenic to cultured mammalian cells. We show here, on the other hand, that when tested using the AL cell system that detects both intragenic and multilocus mutations, chrysotile is indeed mutagenic and comparable in strength to that of γ-rays. Southern analysis of the induced mutants shows that the majority contains large deletions ranging in size from a few thousand to several million base pairs. Results of our study demonstrate that, while chrysotile may be less durable in vivo than the amphibole fibers such as crocidolites and amosites, it can effectively create genetic damage involved in the cancer process.
Supported by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Grant ES 05801 and National Cancer Institute Grants CA49062, CA36447, and CA09236.