Natural carcinogenic fiber and pleural plaques assessment in a general population: A cross-sectional study

Environmental Research 2016 May 26 [Epub ahead of publication] [Link]

Ledda C, Pomara C, Bracci M, Mangano D, Ricceri V, Musumeci A, Ferrante M, Musumeci G, Loreto C, Fenga C, Santarelli L, Rapisarda V.


Natural carcinogenic fibers are asbestos and asbestiform fibers present as a natural component of soils or rocks. These fibers are released into the environment resulting in exposure of the general population. Environmental contamination by fibers are those cases occurred in: rural regions of Turkey, in Mediterranean countries and in other sites of the world, including northern Europe, USA and China. Fluoro-edenite(FE) is a natural mineral species first isolated in Biancavilla, Sicily. The fibers are similar in size and morphology to some amphibolic asbestos fibers, whose inhalation can cause chronic inflammation and cancer. The aim of the current study is to assess the presence and features of pleural plaques (PPs) in Biancavilla’s general population exposed to FE through a retrospective cross-sectional study. All High-Resolution Computed Tomography (HRCT) chest scans carried out between June 2009 and June 2015 in Biancavilla municipality hospital site (exposed subjects) were reviewed. The exposed groups were 1:1 subjects, matched according to age and sex distributions, with unexposed subjects (n.1.240) randomly selected among HRCT chest scans carried out in a Hospital 30km away from Biancavilla. Subjects from Biancavilla with PPs were significantly more numerous than the control group ones (218 vs 38). Average age of either group was >60 years; the age of exposed subjects was significantly (p=0.0312) lesser than the unexposed group. In exposed subjects, in most PPs thickness ranged between 2 and 4.9cm(38%, n=83); while in unexposed ones PPs thickness was less than 2cm (55%, n=21). As to the size of PPs in exposed subjects, in most cases it ranged between 1cm and 24% of chest wall (53%, n=116); while in unexposed ones the size of PPs was lesser than 1cm (23%, n=58). Among exposed subjects, 36 cases (17%) PPs were detected with calcification, whereas in unexposed ones only three (8%) presented calcification. 137 lung parenchymal abnormalities were observed in exposed group; whereas, 12 lung parenchymal involvement were registered in unexposed subjects. The RR for PPs is 6,74 CI 95% (4,47-9,58) p<0,0001 in the exposed population. These findings, suggested the urge to extend the screening on the possible involvement of the respiratory tract to all Biancavilla's population, particularly in those aged more than 30. Besides, it seems essential to start indoor monitoring Biancavilla's municipality.