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Am Rev Respir Dis. 1990 Nov;142(5):1179-84.

Pulmonary fibrosis in aluminum oxide workers. Investigation of nine workers, with pathologic examination and microanalysis in three of them.

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Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Division, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester 01655.


Epidemiologic surveys have indicated an excess of nonmalignant respiratory disease in workers exposed to aluminum oxide (Al2O3) during abrasives production. However, clinical, roentgenographic, histologic, and microanalytic description of these workers are lacking. This is a report of nine Al2O3-exposed workers with abnormal chest roentgenograms (profusion greater than or equal to 1/0, ILO/UC) from a plant engaged in the production of Al2O3 abrasives from alundum ore. Mean duration of exposure was 25 yr, and time since first exposure was 28 yr. in a subgroup of three, the severity of symptoms, reduction in the forced vital capacity (67% predicted) and diffusing capacity (51% predicted), and progressive roentgenographic changes (profusion greater than or equal to 2/2) prompted open lung biopsy. Lung tissue was analyzed by scanning electron microscopy and electron microprobe analysis. In each of the three biopsies, interstitial fibrosis with honeycombing was seen on routine section. In one biopsy, silica and asbestos fiber counts were at the low end of the range seen with silicosis and asbestosis; however, the absence of asbestos bodies and silicotic nodules suggested that the fibrosis was due to another cause. Metals occurred in amounts several orders of magnitude above background, and the majority was aluminum as Al2O3 and aluminum alloys. The findings in these nine workers suggests a common exposure as the possible cause. The nonspecific pathologic findings, absence of asbestos bodies and silicotic nodules, and the striking number of aluminum-containing particles suggest that Al2O3 is that common exposure. The possibility of "mixed dust" fibrosis should also be considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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