Environmental contamination by naturally occurring asbestos (NOA): Analysis of sentinel animal lung tissue

Antonella Campopiano, Annapaola Cannizzaro, Angelo Olori, Federica Angelosanto, Maria Rosaria Bruno, Francesco Sinopoli, Biagio Maria Bruni, Francesco Casalinuovo, Sergio Iavicoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ophiolites are known sources of naturally occurring asbestos (NOA). In Calabria (Southern Italy) NOA are mainly concentrated in the ophiolitic sequences cropping in the Mount Reventino area, in the southern part of the Sila massif, and along the Coastal Chain. The most common type of asbestos identified in the rocks of these areas belongs to the tremolite-actinolite series. Another identified asbestiform mineral is fibrous antigorite belonging to the serpentine mineral group with a minor amount of chrysotile. The purpose of the present study is to evaluate the diffusion of natural asbestiform fibers from NOA using sentinel animals. Fifteen lung samples of sheep, goats and wild boars from Mount Reventino area and two from an area free from NOA were collected. The lung samples were subjected to anatomopathological examination and lung fiber burden analysis by electron microscopy. Abundant tremolite and few antigorite fibers were detected in the lung samples coming from the NOA area. No corpuscle of asbestos was observed. No fiber was found in the two lung samples of sheet from the area free from NOA. These concentrations of fibers per gram of dry weight of lung tissue (f/gdw) ranged from 104 to 106 f/gdw. The asbestos fibers detected in the lungs of the examined animals reflect the geological features of the areas where they grazed and lived. The anatomopathological analysis showed that 60% of the examined animals had macroscopic lesions affecting their lungs. The presence of tremolite fibers in the lungs confirms the diffusion of mineral fibers in the environment and the real advantage of using animal populations in the study areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140990
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Nov 25 2020


  • Animal sentinel system
  • Asbestiform minerals
  • Naturally occurring asbestos
  • Ophiolite
  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Tremolite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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