Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1997;23(1):41-47    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.177

Fibrosis of the lung and pleura and long-term exposure to wollastonite

by Koskinen HO, Nordman HL, Zitting AJ, Suoranta HT, Anttila SL, Taikina-aho OSA, Luukkonen RA

Objectives The purpose of this study was to determine whether long-term exposure to wollastonite causes fibrosis of the lung and pleura in humans.

Methods Forty-nine workers (mean exposure 25 years) in a Finnish limestone-wollastonite mine and mill were examined. Their work histories and symptoms of chronic bronchitis were recorded. The chest radiographs were classified according to the classification of the International Labour Office (1980); a radiographic follow-up from 1981 to 1990 was included. Spirometry and diffusion capacity were measured. Four workers underwent high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). Lung tissue specimens were available for 2 workers. Mineral fibers and asbestos bodies were analyzed from the BAL fluid and lung tissue specimens, which were also analyzed for lung fibrosis.

Results Two workers (4%) had small irregular lung opacities (ILO 1/0), 1 worker (2%) ILO 0/1 of the s/t type. HRCT revealed parenchymal fibrosis in the 2 workers with the ILO 1/0 of the s/t type. Of the 9 workers (18%) with pleural plaques, 5 had been exposed to asbestos. Multivariate logistic regression analyses revealed no association of plaques with the duration of wollastonite or asbestos exposure. Wollastonite fibers or bodies were not found in any of the 4 workers who underwent BAL, nor in either of the workers whose lung tissue specimens were available.

Conclusions No evidence was found that long-term exposure to wollastonite causes parenchymal fibrosis of the lung and pleura. Furthermore, the findings indicate that wollastonite fibers are poorly retained in human lungs.