Non-Malignant Respiratory Illnesses in Association with Occupational Exposure to Asbestos and Other Insulating Materials: Findings from the Alberta Insulator Cohort Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Many insulating materials are used in construction, although few have been reported to cause non-malignant respiratory illnesses. We aimed to investigate associations between exposures to insulating materials and non-malignant respiratory illnesses in insulators. In this cross-sectional study, 990 insulators (45 ± 14 years) were screened from 2011–2017 in Alberta. All participants underwent pulmonary function tests and chest radiography. Demographics, work history, and history of chest infections were obtained through questionnaires. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was diagnosed according to established guidelines. Associations between exposures and respiratory illnesses were assessed by modified Poisson regression. Of those screened, 875 (88%) were males. 457 (46%) participants reported having ≥ 1 chest infection in the past 3 years, while 156 (16%) were diagnosed with COPD. In multivariate models, all materials (asbestos, calcium silicate, carbon fibers, fiberglass, and refractory ceramic fibers) except aerogels and mineral fibers were associated with recurrent chest infections (prevalence ratio [PR] range: 1.18–1.42). Only asbestos was associated with COPD (PR: 1.44; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.01, 2.05). Therefore, occupational exposure to insulating materials was associated with non-malignant respiratory illnesses, specifically, recurrent chest infections and COPD. Longitudinal studies are urgently needed to assess the risk of exposure to these newly implemented insulation materials.


  • Moitra, Subhabrata
  • Farshchi Tabrizi, Ali
  • Idrissi Machichi, Kawtar
  • Kamravaei, Samineh
  • Miandashti, Noushin
  • Henderson, Linda
  • Mukherjee, Manali
  • Khadour, Fadi
  • Naseem, Muhammad T
  • Lacy, Paige
  • Melenka, Lyle

publication date

  • September 28, 2020