Carving of non-asbestiform tremolite and the risk of lung cancer: a follow-up mortality study in a historical nephrite processing cohort

Hsiao-Yu Yang; Ruei-Hao Shie; Pau-Chung Chen
December 2013
Occupational & Environmental Medicine;Dec2013, Vol. 70 Issue 12, p852
Academic Journal
Objectives The health risks associated with exposure to non-asbestiform asbestos minerals, including nephrite, are unclear. In 1965 nephrite processing began in the town of Fengtian in Taiwan, and the majority of inhabitants were involved in the industry from 1970 until 1980. The objectives of this study were to examine lung cancer deaths and assess the carcinogenic effects of nephrite carving. Methods We studied mortality due to lung cancer (ICD-9 code 162 for cancers of the trachea, bronchus and lung) from 1979 to 2011. We calculated the standardised mortality ratio (SMR) for lung cancer using the age- and sex-specific cancer mortality rates in eastern Taiwan as the standard rates. Air samples, bulk samples and a surface sample were analysed. Results Nephrite is a non-asbestiform asbestos mineral composed of microcrystalline tremolite. During nephrite processing, in personal air samples the average concentration of elongated mineral particles with the morphological characteristics of asbestos fibres was 1.4f/cm³, with rough grinding generating the highest concentrations (4.7 f/cm³). Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) confirmed that the air samples contained intact asbestiform tremolite fibres. The ambient air samples and the wipe sample indicated paraoccupational contamination. The crude mortality rates for lung cancer were higher in Fengtian than in Taiwan for all age groups and both genders. The SMR for lung cancer was 1.28 (95% CI 1.12 to 1.45). Conclusions Nephrite carving may increase the risk of lung cancer. Appropriate medical monitoring is warranted for workers who are exposed to similar materials.


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