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Med J Aust. 1990 Dec 3-17;153(11-12):726-30.

Rare earth deposits in a deceased movie projectionist. A new case of rare earth pneumoconiosis?

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Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, Nedlands, WA.


The subject described in this case report, a movie projectionist, had approximately 25 years of occupational exposure to carbon arc lamp fumes. The carbon arc deposits were visible in histological sections as small granules within macrophages of the tracheobronchial lymph nodes and hepatic Kupffer's cells. Electron microprobe analysis by energy dispersive analysis of x-rays showed the granules to be composed of the rare earth elements cerium, lanthanum and neodymium, which are the major constituents of carbon arc rods. Tissue concentrations, as determined by inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy, were approximately 250-2000 times those of unexposed controls, and there was evidence of their redistribution throughout the reticuloendothelial system. There were no respiratory symptoms, or radiographic or histological pulmonary changes attributable to the progressive accumulation of the rare earth elements, and as such the patient cannot be considered to have suffered from pneumoconiosis. Twenty-one published cases of rare earth pneumoconiosis, mainly in photoengravers exposed to carbon arc fumes, are reviewed and suggest that rare earth oxides are not innocuous dusts. With the increasingly widespread use of rare earth elements there is a likelhood that further occupational groups may have significant but unrecognised exposure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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