It is a known fact that asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma. However, there are now also some links between this rare form of cancer and other substances. One of the most significant ones is zeolite, which is a natural mineral that is very similar to asbestos, particularly in the way it behaves.

What Is Zeolite?

Zeolite is scientifically known as ‘hydrated alkali aluminum silicate’. It is a group of minerals, just like asbestos, and it contains mainly silicon compounds and hydrated aluminum. As a natural mineral, it is formed through alkaline groundwater, ash, and volcanic rocks. It is for this reason that the material is generally found near dormant and active volcanoes.

There are many different types of zeolites. In fact, there are many more types than what there are types of asbestos. To date, some 50 different ones have been recognized by the USGS (United States Geographical Survey), and they have also stated that the most common types are:

• Chabazite
• Analcime
• Erionite
• Clinoptilolite
• Ferrierite
• Laumontite
• Heulandite
• Phillipsite
• Mordenite

Zeolites, as stated, are found naturally in ashes and rocks. They are commonly used in animal feeds as additives. The structure of zeolites is very porous in nature, which is why they are also often used as air purifiers, water purifiers, detergents, descants, and absorbents.

Zeolites in the United States

One of the most common places where zeolites are found is in Turkey. However, it also exists naturally in this country. There are some western states, including Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. It is believed that those who live in the ‘intermountain West’ could potentially be exposed to ambient air that contains fibrous zeolite. This means that, if it is demonstrated that there is a link between zeolites and mesothelioma, they could be at significant risk. A study is being conducted by the North Dakota state government to determine whether exposure to eriorite, the zeolite found in that area, could be damaging.

Is There a Link Between Mesothelioma and Zeolites?

Scientists believe that there is a link between erionite zeolites and mesothelioma. Numerous studies have already been conducted on this by medical researchers, physicians, and scientists. The first studies started several decades ago, and have mainly come up with the same results.

In the Turkish Cappadocian region, there were unusually high rates of malignant mesothelioma during the 1970s. This prompted the first researchers to start looking into what could be causing this. Research became more important when similar mortality rates were noted in Boyali, Karlik, Old Sarihidir, Tuzkoy, and Karain. An international team of scientists went to the region, and found that there were high levels of erionite, one of the more common zeolites, in those areas and that this is what caused mesothelioma. Their study lasted 23 years, following 891 subjects, men and women alike, who are all residents of this area. They found that the death rate of pleural mesothelioma in three of those villages was 44.5%.

This prompted a number of other studies to be conducted. Suzuki and Norihiko published their study in 1984, which showed that fibrous erionite had been demonstrated to create peritoneal tumors, and that it had a very long latency period. They were able to determine this through laboratory mice testing. In the study, almost 25% of mice that were exposed to erionite developed mesothelioma. They also discovered that there were little to no biological differences between the erionite-induced mesothelioma and asbestos-induced mesothelioma.

A study was then completed in Wales, United Kingdom, in 1985. This study looked at how rats responded to different forms of zeolites. The connection between the mineral and mesothelioma was the strongest one yet. In fact, almost all the rats died from mesothelioma, and the induction period was relatively short, being less than 400 days on average. Some of the rats that were exposed to zeolites other than erionite also developed mesothelioma. However, those numbers were statistically insignificant.

The above studies all demonstrated the same thing: zeolite can lead to mesothelioma. As a result, the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer has now added erionites as a Group 1 substance. This means that it can cause cancers in humans. Other zeolites, meanwhile, continue to be classed as Group 3. However, these classifications are not necessarily permanent, and they may be changed on review.

Other Uses, Including Zeolite Detox

Zeolite has a very high absorption property. As a result, scientists have tried to see whether it could be useful in decontaminating water. For instance, clinoptilotite has been able to successfully remove a range of microorganisms, including ammonium and various heavy metals, from both seawater and waste water. Furthermore, it has been used in various urbanized areas, where it is common to find high levels of water usage, and also of water being discarded. These tests have shown very promising results. Furthermore, there have been some examples in which zeolites were added to a dietary supplement for a range of different animals, which include bees, pigs, and chickens. There have been a number of studies that have shown that zeolites can make animals healthy, for instance by removing parasites and otherwise improving various biological functions.

Not just that, zeolites have now also been used in various dietary supplements for humans, hoping that this can help rid the body of heavy metals. Those who support this believe that zeolite has a number of fascinating properties, including that it could be beneficial as an adjuvant cancer treatment, and that it could cure hangovers. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of zeolites for any of these uses.

The reality is that there is lack of evidence that shows zeolite has any health benefits, while there are plenty of scientific studies that show zeolite, and particularly, erionite, is linked to mesothelioma. It is very important, therefore, that you consider your options and that you are very careful about ingesting any medication, herbal, natural, or prescription, that contains zeolites. The exception is if it was prescribed to you by physicians, in which case it is likely that they consider the potential benefits to outweigh the side effects of any zeolite containing medication, as neither have been scientifically proven.