A retrospective study was conducted to evaluate lung retention of particles containing cerium in subjects with and without previous occupational exposure to mineral dusts. Analytical transmission electron microscopy was performed on 459 samples of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and 75 samples of lung tissue. Study of the distribution of mineralogical species in human samples showed that particles containing cerium were encountered in less than 10% of subjects. The proportion of subjects with particles containing cerium in their biological samples was not different between controls and subjects with previous occupational exposure to fibrous or nonfibrous mineral dusts. This was considered as the background level of lung retention of cerium in the general population. By contrast, determination of the absolute concentration of particles containing cerium in BAL fluid and lung tissue samples showed that 1.2% (from BAL fluid) and 1.5% (from lung tissue) of subjects with previous exposure to mineral particles had high lung retention of particles containing cerium. This study is believed to be the first one in which lung retention of cerium was estimated in the general population.
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