Perspectives on refractory ceramic fiber (RCF) carcinogenicity: Comparisons with other fibers

Helmut Greim, Mark J. Utell, L. Daniel Maxim, Ron Niebo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


In 2011, SCOEL classified RCF as a secondary genotoxic carcinogen and supported a practical threshold. Inflammation was considered the predominant manifestation of RCF toxicity. Intrapleural and intraperitoneal implantation induced mesotheliomas and sarcomas in laboratory animals. Chronic nose-only inhalation bioassays indicated that RCF exposure in rats increased the incidence of lung cancer and similar exposures resulted in mesothelioma in hamsters, but these studies may have been compromised by overload. Epidemiological studies in the US and Europe showed an association between exposure and prevalence of respiratory symptoms and pleural plaques, but no interstitial fibrosis, mesotheliomas, or increased numbers of lung tumors were observed. As the latency of asbestos induced mesotheliomas can be up to 50 years, the relationship between RCF exposure and respiratory malignances has not been fully determined. Nonetheless, it is possible to offer useful perspectives. RCF and rock wool have similar airborne fiber dimensions and biopersistence. Therefore, it is likely that these fibers have similar toxicology. Traditional rock wool has been the subject of numerous cohort and case control studies. For rock wool, IARC (2002) concluded that the epidemiological studies did not provide evidence of carcinogenicity. Based on analogies with rock wool (read across), it is reasonable to believe that increases in lung cancer or any mesotheliomas are unlikely to be found in the RCF-exposed cohort. RCF producers have developed a product stewardship program to measure and control fiber concentrations and to further understand the health status of their workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-810
Number of pages22
JournalInhalation Toxicology
Issue number13
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Biopersistence
  • Epidemiology
  • Fiber dimensions
  • Mesothelioma
  • Pleural plaques
  • Refractory ceramic fiber
  • Rock wool


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