Asbestos Lung Burden in Necroscopic Samples from the General Population of Milan, Italy

Michelangelo Casali, Michele Carugno, Andrea Cattaneo, Dario Consonni, Carolina Mensi, Umberto Genovese, Domenico Maria Cavallo, Anna Somigliana, Angela Cecilia Pesatori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study analysed the asbestos lung burden in necroscopic samples from 55 subjects free from asbestos-related diseases, collected between 2009 and 2011 in Milan, Italy. Multiple lung samples were analysed by light microscopy (asbestos bodies, AB) and EDXA-scanning electron microscopy (asbestos fibres and other inorganic fibres). Asbestos fibres were detected in 35 (63.6%) subjects, with a higher frequency for amphiboles than for chrysotile. Commercial (CA) and non-commercial amphiboles (NCA) were found in roughly similar frequencies. The estimated median value was 0.11 million fibres per gram of dry lung tissue (mf g-1) for all asbestos, 0.09 mf g-1 for amphiboles. In 44 (80.0%) subjects no chrysotile fibres were detected. A negative relationship between asbestos mass-weighted fibre count and year of birth (and a corresponding positive increase with age) was observed for amphiboles [-4.15%, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -5.89 to -2.37], talc (-2.12%, 95% CI = -3.94 to -0.28), and Ti-rich fibres (-3.10%, 95% CI = -5.54 to -0.60), but not for chrysotile (-2.84%, 95% CI = -7.69 to 2.27). Residential district, birthplace, and smoking habit did not affect the lung burden of asbestos or inorganic fibres. Females showed higher burden only for amphiboles (0.12 versus 0.03 mf g-1 in males, P = 0.07) and talc fibres (0.14 versus 0 mf g-1 in males, P = 0.03). Chrysotile fibres were shorter and thinner than amphibole fibres and NCA fibres were thicker than CA ones. The AB prevalence was 16.4% (nine subjects) with concentrations ranging from 10 to 110 AB g-1 dry, well below the 1000 AB g-1 threshold for establishing occupational exposure. No AB were found in subjects younger than 30 years. Our study demonstrated detectable levels of asbestos fibres in a sample taken from the general population. The significant increase with age confirmed that amphibole fibres are the most representative of cumulative exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-921
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - May 22 2014


  • Amphiboles
  • Asbestos
  • Chrysotile
  • Fibre burden
  • Fibre count

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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