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Identification and Quantitation of Asbestos in Talc

Arthur N. Rohl and Arthur M. Langer
Environmental Health Perspectives
Vol. 9 (Dec., 1974), pp. 95-109
DOI: 10.2307/3428261
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3428261
Page Count: 15
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Identification and Quantitation of Asbestos in Talc
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Abstract

The currently used analytical methods for identification, characterization and quantitation of asbestos fiber in consumer talcum products include polarized light microscopy, x-ray diffraction analysis, transmission electron microscopy with selected area electron diffraction and electron microprobe techniques. Light microscope methods have severe limitations imposed by the ultimate size resolution of the light-optical system. Small particles go unresolved; those marginally resolved may possess optical properties different from those properties cited in the literature; most optical properties, e.g., indices of refraction, are difficult to measure on small particles. In addition to these difficulties, talc fibers often possess optical properties different from those of talc plates, which further confound analysis. Light microscopy is recommended for use only as a preliminary tool on limited, large-sized, samples. Transmission electron microscopy is a good standard technique for visualization of contaminant asbestos fibers. Together with selected area electron diffraction, talc fibers may be easily differentiated from amphibole asbestos fibers on the basis of both morphological and structural characterization. Chrysotile fibers are easily distinguished on this basis as well. The amphibole asbestos minerals require chemical characterization to differentiate among the different fiber types. Probe analysis is mandatory for such fibers. The major drawbacks to electron beam instrumentation for the mineralogical characterization of talcum products are the time and effort required for data acquisition. These techniques do not lend themselves to routine study. X-ray diffraction analysis, utilizing the step-scan method, offers a relatively rapid, quantitative technique for gross fiber analysis. Based on comparison with standard specimens the fiber content of talcs may be quantitatively determined. It is essential to employ a specimen preparation technique which yields homogeneously dispersed particles. Tremolite may be determined at levels as low as 0.10% by weight, chrysotile 0.25%, and anthophyllite at 2.0% by weight occurrence in talc. The variance of these values depends upon many factors, including the mass absorption coefficient of the fiber types as compared to talc and selected diagnostic reflections and their relative intensities. Each of the above techniques is described in detail. A method for routine analysis of consumer talcum products is suggested.

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