Two cases of asbestosis and one case of rounded atelectasis due to non-occupational asbestos exposure

Monaldi Archives for Chest Disease. 2008 Mar;69(1):35-8. [Link]

Candura SM, Binarelli A, Ragno G, Scafa F.

Occupational Medicine Unit, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.


Asbestos is a well-known cause of several neoplastic (malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer) and non-neoplastic (asbestosis, pleuropathies) occupational diseases. Lower-level exposure in the general environment may induce pleural plaques and thickenings, and is associated with an increased mesothelioma risk. We present two patients (a 68-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman) who developed asbestosis (in association with pleural plaques and calcifications), and a 78-year-old man who developed rounded atelectasis (with pleural plaques and benign effusion), after living for several decades in the proximity of large Italian asbestos-cement plant. None of them had been exposed to asbestos occupationally. Besides living in a contaminated area, the woman used to clean the work clothes of her brother, who was employed in the local asbestos factory. The three cases indicate that non-neoplastic, long-latency asbestos-related diseases which are usually observed as a consequence of occupational exposures, may rarely develop in subjects living in contaminated geographical sites and buildings. These unusual environmental diseases raise the diagnostic problem of differentiating them from other, more common respiratory illnesses, and impose the duties of patient notification, assessment and follow-up, to assess the possibility of progression of disease and increased neoplastic risk.