Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1996;22(4):274-284    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.142

Ubiquitous fiber exposure in selected sampling sites in Europe

by Schneider T, Burdett G, Martinon L, Brochard P, Guillemin M, Teichert U, Draeger U

Objectives This study evaluates personal exposure to respirable inorganic and organic fibers during normal human lifetimes and assesses the order of magnitude of the contribution of inorganic fibers other than asbestos to total fiber exposure from man-made and natural sources.

Methods Four groups (suburban schoolchildren, rural retired persons, office workers, and taxi drivers), with five persons per group, were monitored over 24 h four times during one year. Personal sampling pumps collected airborne dust on gold-precoated Nuclepore filters. The fibers were analyzed for fiber sizes specified by the World Health Organization

Results The geometric mean concentrations ranged from 9000 fibers·m-3 (office workers) to 20 000 fibers·m-3 (schoolchildren) for organic fibers, and from 600 fibers·m-3 (taxi drivers) to 4000 fibers·m-3 (schoolchildren) for gypsum fibers. For other inorganic fibers the concentrations were around 5000 fibers·m-3. The contribution of fibers with an elemental composition similar to that of man-made vitreous fibers (MMVF) was less than about one-quarter of the content of other inorganic fibers. The fiber size distributions were uniform across the groups, and the organic fibers were the longest and thinnest nonasbestos fibers.

Conclusions Lifetime exposure to fibers can be ranked as organic fibers > other inorganic fibers > fibers with an elemental composition similar to MMVF > MMVF. Information on the biological effects of fibers is difficult to interpret for use in assessing the exposure risk for low levels of ubiquitous fibers, and there is a lack of knowledge on the effects of organic fibers.