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The use of wild animal models to detect evidence of environmental contamination by asbestos
  1. R. Puleio, DVM,
  2. M. R. Schiavo, BSc,
  3. G. Macaluso, BSc,
  4. C. Manno, BSc and
  5. G. R. Loria, DVM, PhD
  1. Area Diagnostica Specialistica, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Sicilia, Palermo, Italia
  1. Email for correspondence: guidoruggero.loria{at}gmail.com

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Environmental contamination by asbestos, obtained by mineral extraction for its use in buildings and industrial activity, still represents one of the health priorities of modern times (Bruno and others 2007). Asbestos-related risks and its implications in human disease, such as mesothelioma and similar conditions, are still controversial. In 2004, epidemiological studies revealed an unexpected high prevalence of pleural mesothelioma in human beings of Biancavilla village in Catania, a small town at the foot of Mount Etna (Biggeri and others 2004). This discovery provoked the public health authorities to investigate the environmental risk in the area. The source of the problem was identified as a local open-pit mine located near Monte Calvario, which had been used over the last century as a source of concrete-pozzolan sand for buildings in the town. Materials extracted from the quarry were incorporated into walls and frames of many old houses. Chemical studies of the composition of the sands and local building materials identified a new mineral similar to asbestos called 5-fluoro-edenite, and classified as part of the amphibole group of metamorphic rocks (Gianfagna and others 2001). To reduce the risk of contamination, the local authorities applied a number of measures including the closure of the quarry, enclosing the area with a wide nylon cover to prevent …

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