Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2003;29(1):60-63    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.705

Diffuse pleural fibrosis-an unreliable indicator of heavy asbestos exposure?

by Smith KA, Sykes LJ, McGavin CR

Objectives This study aimed at testing the hypothesis that diffuse pleural fibrosis is associated with a heavier exposure to asbestos than that of benign pleural plaques, and hence diffuse pleural fibrosis can be used as a marker of heavy exposure.

Methods Asbestos burden was estimated for 192 naval dockyard workers (96 with diffuse pleural fibrosis, 96 with plaques) by calculating the exposure ratings from the trade and the years spent in that trade. In 53 cases the diffuse pleural fibrosis was bilateral.

Results No difference was found in the mean estimated asbestos burden between all diffuse pleural fibrosis and plaques, nor between plaques and unilateral and bilateral diffuse pleural fibrosis, analyzed separately by a one-factor analysis of variance. The mean asbestos burden was significantly greater for bilateral than for unilateral diffuse pleural fibrosis. A wide spread of asbestos exposure was noted among the men with diffuse pleural fibrosis.

Conclusions Diffuse pleural fibrosis may arise after widely varying exposure to asbestos. The mean exposure ratings for diffuse pleural fibrosis do not differ from those for pleural plaques, although the ratings are significantly higher for men with bilateral diffuse pleural fibrosis than for those with unilateral diffuse pleural fibrosis. Diffuse pleural fibrosis cannot be used as a reliable marker of heavy asbestos exposure.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 1997;23(4):311-316