Clearance of UICC amosite asbestos from the lungs during chronic--that is, repeated--exposure was investigated by using the scanning electron microscope to measure lung burdens from rats which had inhaled amosite asbestos at an approximately constant concentration of 0.1 mg/m3 or, equivalently, 20 fibres/ml for seven hours a day, five days a week for up to 18 months. The lung burdens were compared with previous results for higher exposure concentrations of 1 and 10 mg/m3. Those previous lung burdens had been measured using other analytical methods (infrared spectrophotometry) that were not suitable for the new lower lung burdens. Taken together, these results showed lung burdens rising pro rata with exposure concentration and exposure time. This accumulation of lung burden has been described by a kinetic model that takes account of the sequestration of material at locations in the lung from where it cannot be cleared. Unlike some earlier models in which lung burdens eventually reach a plateau with equilibrium between deposition and clearance during chronic exposure, this sequestration model shows lung burdens continuing to rise with exposure time. The latest results reported here support the application of such a model to lower exposure concentrations closer to those of asbestos in workplaces.
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