In an effort to understand the properties of asbestos fibres that might contribute to their being toxic, we incubated three different varieties of asbestos with phospholipid emulsions and looked for evidence of lipid peroxidation. Although all three types of asbestos were able to catalyse lipid peroxidation in the native state, this catalytic activity was inhibited by pre-washing of the asbestos with the iron chelator desferroxamine. This suggests that: lipid peroxidation may be one of the mechanisms by which asbestos produces tissue injury, and treatment with iron chelators might diminish the potential to produce this injury.

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