Heat-loving marine microbes may detoxify asbestos 2023


Asbestos was used in homes, buildings, automobile brakes, and other construction materials because to its strength, fire resistance, and poor electrical conductivity. Inhaling asbestos fibers is very harmful.

For the first time, Penn researchers have proved that extremophilic bacteria from high-temperature marine settings may lessen asbestos toxicity. American Society for Microbiology journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology publishes the research.

Their study has concentrated on using the thermophilic bacteria Deferrisoma palaeochoriense to anaerobically respire iron from asbestos crystals. “Iron has been identified as a major component driving the toxicity of asbestos minerals and its removal from asbestos minerals has been shown to decrease their toxic properties,” said Ileana Perez-Rodriguez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science at Penn.

D. palaeochoriense may likewise transmit electrical charge into asbestos iron without affecting its mineral structure. Perez-Rodriguez suggested it might increase asbestos’ electrical conductivity.

Bacteria may reduce asbestos toxicity by removing iron. Instead, treated asbestos’s enhanced electrical conductivity may allow reuse.

Like iron, asbestos fibrous silicate formations are carcinogenic. Silicon and magnesium removal from asbestos disrupts its fibrous structure. Biosilicification of asbestos minerals by the thermophilic bacteria Thermovibrio ammonificans was tried.

Perez-Rodriguez noted T. ammonificans accumulated silicon in its biomass when growing in “serpentine” asbestos, which has curly fibers, but not in “amphibole” asbestos, which has straight fibers.

This discrepancy and the various amounts and kinds of elements produced during microbe-mineral interactions with asbestos types Perez-Rodriguez said the varied chemical compositions and crystal structures of asbestos minerals make it impossible to treat them all the same.

Perez-Rodriguez claimed these studies removed iron, silicon, and/or magnesium to detoxify asbestos better than fungus. To improve asbestos treatments for detoxification and reuse as secondary raw materials, more research is needed.

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