Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1994;20(1):34-41    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.1431

Asbestos exposure and pulmonary fiber concentrations of 300 Finnish urban men.

by Karjalainen A, Vanhala E, Karhunen PJ, Lalu K, Penttila A, Tossavainen A

OBJECTIVES The aim of the study was to determine the pulmonary concentrations of mineral fibers in the Finnish male urban population and to evaluate the analysis of pulmonary fiber burden by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) as an indicator of past fiber exposure.

METHODS The pulmonary concentration of mineral fibers was determined by SEM and compared with occupational history for a series of 300 autopsies of urban men aged 33 to 69 years.

RESULTS The concentration of fibers (f) longer than 1 micron ranged from < 0.3 to 163.10(6) per gram of dry tissue (f.g-1). Asbestos fiber concentrations exceeding 1.10(6) f.g-1 were observed in 33% of the cases with probable occupational exposure to asbestos and 1% of the cases with unlikely occupational exposure. Even asbestos fiber concentrations of 0.3 to 1.10(6) f.g-1, especially of crocidolite-amosite fibers, were rare among the men with unlikely occupational exposure. Fiber concentrations exceeding or equaling 1.10(6) f.g-1 were 10 times more frequent among the men more than 60 years of age as compared with those less than 40 years of age. Inorganic fibers other than asbestos had a weaker correlation with occupational history and age. Smoking habits had no significant effect on the pulmonary fiber counts.

CONCLUSIONS Asbestos fiber concentrations exceeding 1.10(6) f.g-1 are highly indicative of past occupational exposure to asbestos. The distribution of fiber concentrations in the different age groups of this study indicated decreasing asbestos exposure in Finland since the 1970s.