Asbestos is a fiberous material, mined from metamorphic rock. It's harmful due to the size of the fibres, which stick in the lungs causing asbestosis (where your lungs make an acid to try and disolve the fibres, and really screw up your lungs!) and cancer.
Fullers Earth is a powder, made up of "alumina, silica, iron oxides, lime, magnesia, and water, in extremely variable proportions"
It's used in cosmetics, cat litter and to soak up oil spills. It's nothing like asbestos although you probably wouldn't want to inhale it in large doses (diseases like miners / farmers lung are not nice)
So, to answer the question. No, it's fine, just don't snort it like cocaine and you'll be ok.
Possibly carcinogenic, whereas asbestos is a known, notorious, major cause of lung cancers.
Fuller's earth is an absorbent. It was used as a cleaning agent, before dry cleaning came along. There were people called Fullers, who pounded the stuff into clothes. I don't think it is much associated wth cancer.
I'll be the first to put my hands in the air and say I'm no doctor, no chemist. Given the ocuntless number of times this has been sprayed everywhere on NBC training on countless individuals including myself, I'd be more than happy to be told this stuff is safe.
However A level chemistry stands me in some stead....
I'd be interested in comments...The "phrase duty" of care leaps to mind.
MoD Source on the contents of Fullers Earth : http://www.dstan.mod.uk/data/68/142/00000100.pdf#search='ministry%20of%20defence%20fuller%27s%20earth'
Para 4 of said doc :-
The fullerâs earth special shall consist largely of montmorillonite, a
naturally occurring hydrated aluminium silicate. In addition, very finely
divided calcite, haematite or silica may be associated."
An International Agency for Research on Cancer panel
evaluated the health risk posed by exposure to crystalline and
amorphous silica, palygorskite, sepiolite, wollastonite, some
natural and synthetic zeolites (other than erionite), and coal dust
and para-aramid fibrils. The panel concluded that âcrystalline
silica inhaled in the form of quartz or cristobalite from
occupational sources was classified as carcinogenic to humans
(Group 1).â The conclusion was reached on âthe basis of a
relatively large number of epidemiological studies that together
provided sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity
of inhaled crystalline silica under the conditions specifiedâ
(International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1996).
* WARNING: This product contains a small amount of quartz that may cause delayed respiratory disease if inhaled over a
prolonged period of time. Avoid breathing dust. Use NIOSH/MSHA approved respirator where TLV for quartz may be exceeded.
IARC Monographs on the evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Humans (volume 68, 1997) concludes that quartz is
carcinogenic to humans (IARC classification 1).
Page 3 Excerpt :-
Section IV HEALTH HAZARD DATA
This product is a chemically inert, non-combustible mineral. A single exposure will not result in serious adverse effects. Excessive
occupational, uncontrolled inhalation of dust may cause lung disease, silicosis, with symptoms of shortness of breath and reduced
Route(s) of Entry: Inhalation? Yes Skin? No Ingestion? No
Health Hazards (Acute and Chronic): May cause delayed respiratory disease if dust inhaled over a prolonged period of time.
Inhalation: Breathing silica dust may not cause noticeable injury or illness even though permanent lung damage may be occurring.
Inhalation of dust may cause irritation of the nose, throat and respiratory passages. Inhalation of dust may have the following serious
chronic health effects:
Silicosis: Excessive inhalation of respirable crystalline silica dust may cause a progressive, disabling and sometimes-fatal lung
disease called silicosis. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, non-specific chest illness and reduced pulmonary
function. This disease is exacerbated by smoking. Individuals with silicosis are predisposed to develop tuberculosis.
Cancer Status: The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that crystalline silica inhaled in the form of
quartz or cristobalite from occupational sources is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1 - carcinogenic to humans). Refer to IARC
Monograph 68. Silica. Some Silicates and Organic.Fibers (published in June 1997) in.conjunction with the use of these materials.
The National Toxicology Program classifies respirable crystalline silica as "reasonably anticipated to be carcinogen". For further
information See: "Adverse effects of Crystalline Silica Exposure" published by the American Thoracic Society Medical Section of
the American Lung Association, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Volume 155, page 761-765, 1997.
Other Data with Possible Relevance to Human Health: The small quantities of quartz found in this product are, under normal
conditions, naturally coated with a layer of amorphous silica and/or bentonite clay. IARC (vol. 68, 1997, pg. 191-192) has stated that
quartz can differ in toxicity depending on the minerals with which it is combined, citing studies in IARC (vol. 42, 1987, p. 86) which
state that the toxic effect of quartz is reduced by the "protective effect ... due mainly to clay minerals..."
Skin Contact: No adverse effects expected
Eye Contact: Contact may cause mechanical irritation and possible injury
Chronic Health Effects: See "Inhalation" subsection above with respect to silicosis, cancer status and other data with possible
relevance to human health.
Signs and Symptoms of Exposure: There are generally no signs or symptoms of exposure to crystalline silica See "Inhalation"
subsection above for symptoms of silicosis.
Medical Conditions Generally Aggravated by Exposure: Individuals with respiratory disease, including but not limited to
asthma and bronchitis, or subject to eye irritation should not be exposed to crystalline silica dust.
Page 4 Excerpt :-
Steps to be Taken in Case Material is Released or Spilled: Vacuum if possible to avoid generating airborne dust. Avoid breathing
dust. Wear an approved respirator. Avoid adding water; product will become slippery when wet. Waste Disposal Method - Follow
federal, state and local regulations for solid waste.
Handling and Storing Precautions: Do not breathe dust. Use normal precautions against bag breakage or spills of bulk material.
Avoid creation of respirable dust. Use good housekeeping in storage and use areas to prevent accumulation of dust in work areas.
Use adequate ventilation and dust collection. Maintain and use proper, clean respiratory equipment. Launder clothing that has
become dusty. Empty containers (bags, bulk containers, storage tanks, etc.) retain silica residue and must be handled in accordance
with provisions of this Material Safety Data Sheet. Warn and Train employees in accordance with state and federal regulations.
true up to a point... that point being when you start doing individual decontamination drills.
If someone from the MoD says its perfectly safe i'm happy to believe them, after all they've reassured our fears that Gulf War Syndrome doesn't exist.... and i'm sure all those guys who went through Porton Down many moons ago caught what they had off a loo seat in a Weymouth pub... .