No other medical problem in the last half-century—with the possible exception of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome—has stymied the understanding and treatment efforts of scientists and physicians as has the spectrum of diseases caused by amphibole and chrysotile filaments of the fibrous mineral asbestos. Seminal work by Wagner in South Africa pointed to the mineral as the cause of malignant pleural mesothelioma in 1960, although earlier workers in Britain and Germany had suggested this possibility. Implicated as a cocarcinogen with cigarette smoke in cases of bronchus carcinoma and a cause of pleural plaque formation and fibrosis, the apparently ubiquitous fibrous silicate has become a villain in settings as far apart as shipyards and classrooms.
At hand is a sprightly new text on a grim range of diseases caused or abetted by asbestos fibers. About half of the multiauthor volume is devoted to epidemiology, minerology, pathology, and mechanisms of carcinogenesis. All these
Gunn WG. Asbestos-Related Malignancy. JAMA. 1987;258(3):388. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400030104043