A case of malignant mesothelioma in a rice-starch factory

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. 2007 Aug;80(8):743-745. Epub 2007 Mar 27. [Link]

De Zotti R, Fiorito A.

Clinical Unit of Occupational Medicine, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste General Hospital, Via della Pieta’ 19, 34129, Trieste, Italy.


Introduction: Recent reports of cases of malignant mesothelioma (MM) in "non-traditional" areas of employment are an indication of the numerous occasions in which exposure to asbestos has occurred in the workplace. We describe an unusual case of occupational exposure to asbestos to stress the importance of careful history taking when assessing a patient’s work history, especially in generic occupations in which there is apparently no exposure to asbestos.

Case report: Malignant mesothelioma was diagnosed in a woman worker employed in a factory making rice starch. She had worked in the storehouse of the factory for approximately 40 years. From circumstantial interviews with relatives and workmates, it emerged that her job involved retrieving, for re-use, the jute sacks in which the rice was transported. More than one source remembered distinctly that some of the sacks had “Asbestos” written on the outside.

Discussion: This case provides further confirmation of the importance of careful history taking among workers with mesothelioma to avoid failing to diagnose occupational disease. It also highlights the risk of asbestos exposure represented by recycling asbestos-contaminated sacks in both occupational and non-occupational settings.

Keywords: Malignant mesothelioma – Recycled jute sack – Asbestos exposure