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Environ Health Perspect. 1994 Oct;102 Suppl 5:253-5.

Retention of asbestos fibers in the human body.

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Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.


The number, type, and size of retained asbestos fibers were measured by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in lung tissues of 10 workers who had died from lung cancer or mesothelioma. The levels were 190-3000 x 10(6) fibers/g of dry tissue in three crocidolite sprayers, 6-39 x 10(6) fibers/g of dry tissue in two asbestos product workers and 13-280 x 10(6) fibers/g of dry tissue in five insulators exposed to anthophyllite. The duration of past exposure corresponding to the limit of 1 million fibers/g of dry tissue was 1 to 2 days in spraying, 3 to 10 days at the production plant and 1 to 4 months in insulation work. No long-term clearance of amphibole fibers, > 5 microns in length, could be demonstrated. In one of the sprayers the fiber concentrations of lung parenchyma, visceral and parietal pleura, hilar lymph nodes, and kidney cortex were orders of magnitude higher than in a series of unselected autopsies. The size and aspect ratio of crocidolite fibers in various tissues were similar, indicating that the translocation processes are rather unselective in respect to fiber dimensions.

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