Mesotheliomas among railway mechanics in Italy

C. Maltoni, C. Pinto, R. Dominici

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Asbestos has been used on rolling stock of the Italian Railways since the 1940's. From the 1950's to the 1970's it was used on a massive scale for the insulation of passenger carriages (up to more than 800 kg per carriage). About 10 years ago, a programme was began to remove asbestos from rolling stock and replace it with glass fibre. We must consider as exposed to the carcinogenic effects of asbestos all mechanics who, during the past years, worked at the Major Repair Workshops (MRW), at the Locomotive Depots (LD) of the State Railways, or in other state or private factories where railway rolling stock insulated with asbestos was built, checked, repaired or demolished, or where asbestos removal operations took place. It has been estimated that the total number of mechanics potentially exposed to asbestos since 1950 in the MRWs alone amounts to more than 25,000. There are about 750 workers presently employed at the Bologna MRW and it has been estimated that the entire cohort of this MRW from the beginning of the 1950's includes about 3,000 people (in excess). In 1986 the Bologna Institute of Oncology reported 6 cases of pleural mesothelioma at the Bologna MRW and 1 at the Rimini MRW. This was the first report of pleural mesotheliomas among railway mechanics in Italy. From 1986 up to the present, other cases of pleural mesothelioma have been recorded among mechanics working on railway rolling stock in the MRW's and in the LD's of the State Railways and in other factories. The total number of these cases now amounts to 31:11 in Bologna (1 is still alive), 2 in Rimini, 4 in Reggio Emilia, 1 in Piacenza, 1 in Turin; 1 in Milan, 1 in Bolzano, 1 in Trieste, 1 in Vicenza, 1 in Verona, 1 in Genoa, 3 in Florence, 1 in Ancona and 2 in Siracusa. The records and the raw material of the cases from Bologna, Rimini and Reggio Emilia were collected and reviewed at the Bologna Institute of Oncology. The frequency of deaths from pleural mesothelioma among mechanics working on railway rolling stock in Bologna, Rimini and Reggio Emilia has been steadily increasing over the years: 1 case in the quinquennium 1987-82, 11 cases in the quinquennium 1983-87, and 4 cases in 1988. Considering only the Bologna MRW, 10 deaths from pleural mesothelioma correspond to 333/100,000. An epidemiological study on cohorts of workers in the MRW's in Bologna and Rimini is now under way at the Bologna Institute of Oncology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-110
Number of pages8
JournalMedicina del Lavoro
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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