Cluster cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma in an oil factory

La Medicina del Lavoro. 2005 Sep-Oct;96(5):440-4. [Link]

Petazzi A, Gaudiello F, Canti Z, Mensi C.

Servizio Prevenzione e Sicurezza negli Ambienti di Lavoro, ASL Provincia di Milano 1.


Background: The traditional occupational hazards of the productive cycle of oils are attributable to chemicals (use of solvents, pesticides and other agents), dusts, labour accidents (trauma, ignition, explosion), noise, manual lifting, work organization and hot-wet microclimate. The latest risk is due to the use of high temperatures (from 50 up to 250 degrees C) during the processes of extraction with solvent and refining. No cases are reported in literature of asbestos related disease in subjects who worked in oil factories. Nevertheless the structure and organization of the workplace, which is similar to that of sugar refineries, where cases of malignant mesothelioma have been described (moreover in workers employed in running and maintenance of the plants), led to the assumption that even in oil factories asbestos for the insulation of pipes and boilers could be present.

Objectives: To describe 3 cases of Malignant Mesothelioma that occurred in workers of the same oil factory.

Methods: Since this occupational sector is not conventionally known for asbestos exposure the Local Health Unit and the Lombardy Mesothelioma Registry decided to investigate this industrial plant.

Results: Following examination of the archives of the Local Health Unit and inspection of the plant, an environmental asbestos contamination (pipes and boilers) was found. The 3 cases were defined as occupational disease and the required legal procedures were initiated. This underlines the importance of close cooperation with Local Health Units of occupational medicine and the Regional Mesothelioma Registry in the study and acknowledgment of cases which would otherwise not have been recognized, with consequent loss of precious information.