Attapulgite (palygorskite) and sepiolite are fibrous clay minerals used commercially as components in a wide variety of products including oil and grease adsorbents, carriers for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and pesticides. They are also components of drilling muds and animal litter and they are used as paint thickeners. The current annual worldwide production of these minerals exceeds one million tons. Although fibrous in nature, the fibre length may vary greatly depending on the location of the geological deposits. American attapulgite is short (0.1-2.5 micron in length, median of 0.4 micron) but palygorskite from other parts of the world is much longer (30% longer than 5 micron). Several samples of these materials have been submitted to scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM). This paper reports the results of microscopic evaluations and makes a comparison with the data from experimental carcinogenicity studies and it is concluded that fibre length is a most important carcinogenic property.
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