ABSTRACT In a cross-sectional study of all white and mixed-race men employed at South African crocidolite and amosite mines, data on duration of asbestos exposure and radiological findings were available for 162 men, 94% of the total population. Postero-anterior radiographs were read by three experienced readers. Abnormality was regarded as present if reported by at least two of them. The reading included an assessment of whether interlobar fissures were not visible, were visible but not thickened, or were thickened according to criteria shown in a reference radiograph. Fissures which were visible but not thickened were seen in almost half the men and were not more common in men with longer asbestos exposure. On the other hand, thickened fissures increased in prevalence from about 2% in those who had worked with asbestos for 7 years or less, to 25% in those with more than 15 years' asbestos exposure. Some other asbestos-associated pleural or parenchymal abnormality occurred in 69% of men with thickened fissures. The prevalence of thickened fissures as an isolated abnormality was also related to the duration of asbestos exposure. Because its prevalence is related to duration of exposure, and its recognition is not subject to excessive inter-observer variation, we suggest that thickening of the fissures is a valuable sign in the radiological assessment of workers exposed to asbestos.
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