The available knowledge on the oncogenic risks of asbestos, the data on the uses of asbestos in railroads, with particular regard to the Italian State Railroads (Ferrovie dello Stato=FS), and the groups at risk due to the exposure to asbestos used in railroads were briefly reviewed. The available data on the pathological effects of such exposure, and in particular on the onset of mesotheliomas among machinists and other railroad workers, were also summarized. Eighty-five cases of mesothelioma (80 pleural, 4 peritoneal, and 1 pericardial), related to the exposure to asbestos used in railroads, observed in various Italian regions, were then reported. Twenty- eight of these cases (among which 27 reported in the Emilia- Romagna Region) were submitted to a detailed study at the Bologna Institute of Oncology. Fifty cases of mesothelioma occurred among FS workers, in particular machinists; 30 cases occurred among machinists of rolling-stock workshops not belonging to the FS; 3 cases occurred among travelling workers of rolling-stock not belonging to the FS; and 2 cases were found in family members (a daughter and a wife) of FS workers. This series of cases, together with similar data from the literature, proves the existence of an actually health risk due to asbestos used in railroads, and indicates its gravity. On the basis of the available data, the following steps are consid ered necessary: the adoption of preventive measures, the perfor mance of medical oncological surveillance, the promotion of systematic epidemiological investigations, and, finally, more em phasis on basic research, aimed at generating information on the biological events taking place during the incubation period of the tumors, to be used for reducing the effect of exposure, and there fore for contrasting the onset of the disease in those who, having been exposed, although healthy, are potentially at high risk.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis