Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health





PubMed ID





School of Medical and Health Sciences


Gardner, M., Cross, M., Reed, S., Davidson, M., Hughes, R., & Oosthuizen, J. (2022). Pathogenic potential of respirable spodumene cleavage fragments following application of regulatory counting criteria for asbestiform fibres. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(24), Article 16649.


Health risks from exposure to lithium-bearing spodumene cleavage fragments are unknown. While asbestiform fibres can lead to fibrosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer, controversy remains whether non-asbestiform cleavage fragments, having equivalent dimensions, elicit similar pathologic responses. The mineralogy of respirable particles from two alpha (α) - spodumene concentrate grades (chemical and technical) were characterised using semi-quantitative X-ray diffraction (XRD). Particles were measured using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and the dimensions (length [L], diameter [D], aspect ratio [AR]) applied to regulatory counting criteria for asbestiform fibres. Application of the current World Health Organization (WHO) and National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) counting criteria, L ˃ 5 µm, D ˂ 3 µm, AR ˃ 3 : 1, to 10 SEM images of each grade identified 47 countable particles in the chemical and 37 in the technical concentrate test samples. Of these particles, 17 and 16 in the chemical and technical test samples, respectively, satisfied the more rigorous, previously used Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995 (Western Australia [WA]) criteria, L ˃ 5 µm and D ≤ 1 µm. The majority of the countable particles were consistent with α - spodumene cleavage fragments. These results suggest elongated α - spodumene particles may pose a health risk. It is recommended the precautionary principle be applied to respirable α - spodumene particles and the identification and control of dust hazards in spodumene extraction, handling and processing industries be implemented.



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