Angular and fibrous particles in lung in relation to silica-induced diseases
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INTRODUCTION: The lung concentration of angular and fibrous particles was measured in cases of lung fibrosis only, in cases of lung fibrosis and lung cancer, and in cases of lung cancer only. These patients worked in different trades (mining, foundries, construction and were not a homogeneous group of exposed workers. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Particles, both angular and fibrous, were extracted from lung parenchyma by a bleach digestion method, mounted on copper microscopic grids by a carbon replica technique, and analyzed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). The quartz concentration was also determined by X-ray diffraction (XRD) on a silver membrane filter after extraction from the lung parenchyma. RESULTS: (1) Lung cancer and lung fibrosis cases retained more metal-rich particles (P = 0.02) and more angular particles of all sorts (P = 0.009) than did lung fibrosis cases only, and the differences were statistically significant. (2) However, more quartz was retained in the lungs in lung fibrosis cases than in lung fibrosis or lung cancer cases, but the difference in the concentrations was not statistically significant. (3) More ferruginous bodies were retained in the lungs in lung cancer and lung fibrosis cases than in cases of lung fibrosis only, and the difference in the concentrations was statistically significant (P = 0.02). CONCLUSION: Results obtained from lung tissue must always be interpreted cautiously. However, these results are consistent with the hypothesis that workers in some trades such as foundries were exposed not only to quartz but also to asbestos, ceramic fibers, metal-rich non fibrous particles, and other likely carcinogenic chemicals. The wide range of particle types identified in the lungs of these workers illustrates the complexity of trying to determine disease origins in these work environments. Epidemiology studies have to control for the exposure to these carcinogens as well as for smoking habits.
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