Asbestos in organs and placenta of five stillborn infants suggests transplacental transfer

Abida K. Haque, Melodee G. Mancuso, Marion G. Williams, Ronald F. Dodson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Digests of lungs, liver, and placenta from five stillborn infants of 22 to 38 weeks gestational age were examined for asbestos and other fibers using light and electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray analysis, and selected area diffraction analysis. Uncoated chrysotile asbestos fibers were found in the digests of at least one of the three tissues examined from each stillborn infant. The asbestos fiber burdens ranged from 71,000 to 357,000 fibers/g wet tissue. Most of the fibers were small, with the mean length ranging from 0.83 to 2.53 μm. While appreciable numbers of uncoated chrysotile fibers were present, no coated asbestos fibers were found in any of the stillborns. Both coated and uncoated nonasbestos fibers were found in at least one of the tissue digests of all five stillborns. The uncoated nonasbestos fibers were characterized as aluminum silicates, diatomaceous earth fragments, or other fibers. The coated nonasbestos fibers or ferruginous bodies were consistent with being formed on diatomaceous earth fragments, black carbon cores, or sheet silicate cores. Since the placenta is the only route of communication between the fetus and the outside environment, our findings strongly suggest a transplacental transfer of asbestos and other fibers in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-175
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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