Asbestos Fibre Burden in the Lungs of Patients with Mesothelioma Who Lived Near Asbestos-Cement Factories
Background Epidemics of malignant mesothelioma are occurring among inhabitants of Casale Monferrato and Bari never employed in the local asbestos-cement (AC) factories. The mesothelioma risk increased with proximity of residence to both plants.
Objectives To provide information on the intensity of environmental asbestos exposure, in the general population living around these factories, through the evaluation of the lung fibre burden in mesothelioma patients.
Methods We analysed by a scanning electron microscope equipped with X-ray microanalysis wet (formalin-fixed) lung tissue samples from eight mesothelioma patients who lived in Casale Monferrato or Bari and underwent surgery. Their occupational and residential history was obtained during face-to-face interviews. Semi-quantitative and quantitative indices of cumulative environmental exposure to asbestos were computed, based on residential distance from the AC plants and duration of stay.
Results The lung fibre burden ranged from 110?000 to 4?300?000 fibres per gram of dry lung (f/g) and was >1?000?000 f/g in three subjects. In four cases, only amphibole fibres were detected. Environmental exposures had ceased at least 10 years before samples were taken. No patient had other definite or probable asbestos exposures. A linear relationship was observed between the lung fibre burden and all three indices of environmental cumulative exposure to asbestos.
Conclusions Environmental exposure to a mixture of asbestos fibres may lead to a high lung fibre burden of amphiboles years after exposure cessation. The epidemiological evidence of an increased mesothelioma risk for the general population of Casale Monferrato and Bari, associated with asbestos contamination of the living environment, is corroborated.