Linking rock fabric to fibrous mineralisation: a basic tool for the asbestos hazard
Abstract. In recent years, many studies have addressed the effect on human health caused by asbestos exposures. As asbestos is a group of fibrous minerals that mainly occurs in mafic and ultramafic rocks (ophiolitic sequences), a close relationship between asbestos occurrence and the geological history of host rocks should be expected. By reviewing the existing literature and presenting characteristic examples, it is proposed a direct correspondence exists between the presence of fibrous minerals in ophiolites and the rock fabric systematics due to the combined activity of deformation, metamorphism/metasomatism, and rock/fluid interaction. Understanding the geological factors that may be at the origin of the nucleation/growth of fibrous minerals constitutes a necessary requirement for developing a methodological and analytical procedure to evaluate asbestos hazard (AH) in the natural prototype (ophiolitic rocks). A parameterisation of the AH in function of the main geological processes that produce the rock fabric systematics in different tectonic/geodynamic settings is discussed. A geological multidisciplinary approach (based on geological-structural field evidence combined with textural, mineralogical, petrological, and geochemical investigations) is proposed as the prerequisite for the evaluation of AH in natural environments. This approach, in particular, can provide a robust basis to formulate a procedural protocol finalised to the mitigation of asbestos effects in environments where these effects are still a real threat.