Occupational Asthma Reference

De Vuyst P, Dumortier P, Swaen GM, Pairon JC, Brochard P, Respiratory health effects of man-made vitreous (mineral) fibres. [Review], Eur Respir J, 1995;8:2149-2173,

Keywords: Belgium, mmmf, ceramic fibre, mesothelioma, review, mortality, lung cancer, asbestos

Known Authors

Paul de Vuyst, Erasme Hospital, Brussels Paul de Vuyst

Jean-Claude Pairon, Centre Hospitalier Intercommunal de Créteil, France Jean-Claude Pairon

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The group of man-made mineral or vitreous fibres (MMMFs or MMVFs) includes glass wool, rock wool, slag wool, glass filaments and microfibres, and refractory ceramic fibres (RCFs). Experimental observations have provided evidence that some types of MMVF are bioactive under certain conditions. The critical role of size parameters has been demonstrated in cellular and animal experiments, when intact fibres are in direct contact with the target cells. It is, however, difficult to extrapolate the results from these studies to humans since they bypass inhalation, deposition, clearance and translocation mechanisms. Inhalation studies are more realistic, but show differences between animal species regarding their sensibility to tumour induction by fibres. Fibre biopersistence is an important factor, as suggested by recent inhalation studies, which demonstrate positive results with RCF for fibrosis, lung tumours and mesothelioma. There is no firm evidence that exposure to glass-, rock- and slag wool is associated with lung fibrosis, pleural lesions, or nonspecific respiratory disease in humans. Exposure to RCF could enhance the effects of smoking in causing airways obstruction. An elevated standard mortality ratio for lung cancer has been demonstrated in cohorts of workers exposed to MMVF, especially in the early technological phase of mineral (rock slag) wool production. During that period, several carcinogenic agents (arsenic, asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)) were also present at the workplace and quantitative data about smoking and fibre levels are lacking. It is not possible from these data to determine whether the risk of lung cancer is due to the MMVFs themselves. No increased risk of mesothelioma has been demonstrated in the cohorts of workers exposed to glass-, slag-or rock wool. There are in fact insufficient epidemiological data available concerning neoplastic diseases in RCF production workers because of the small size of the workforce and the relatively recent industrial production.

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