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Arch Intern Med. 1991 Jun;151(6):1197-201.

Zirconium compound-induced pulmonary fibrosis.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Cooper Hospital, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Camden.


Despite suspicion that inhalation of zirconium should be capable of causing human pulmonary disease, documentation of zirconium pneumoconiosis in humans has been lacking. We studied a likely case of zirconium compound-induced pulmonary fibrosis. The diagnosis was based on the following: (1) a history of gradual increase in symptoms and slowly progressing pulmonary fibrosis by chest roentgenogram compatible with a pneumoconiosis; (2) an appropriate history of exposure and a latency period of about 15 years before the onset of dyspnea and of roentgenographic changes; (3) analysis of open lung biopsy material revealing end-stage fibrosis and honeycombing, a moderate number of birefringent particles, and extremely high levels of a variety of zirconium compounds; and (4) no other potential cause of fibrosis. We conclude that zirconium should be considered a likely cause of pneumoconiosis and that appropriate precautions should be taken in the workplace.

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