ABSTRACT Long-term studies of respiratory function and lung morphology were carried out on control groups of guinea pigs and matched groups exposed by inhalation to asbestos dust. Animals were exposed to aerosols of chrysotile or amosite asbestos containing large numbers of short fibres, for either 9 or 18 days. Resistance and dynamic compliance of the guinea pig respiratory system were measured non-destructively, while the point counting technique was applied to the histological preparations. Under these exposure conditions the extent of pathological and functional changes were not related to differences in duration of exposure. Such changes were more marked, however, in animals exposed at eight rather than three months of age. The measurement of dynamic compliance provided the most sensitive assessment of the functional disturbances, which were more extensive following chrysotile exposure. Progressive peribronchiolar fibrosis developed about 40 weeks after chrysotile exposure at eight months of age, but not until about 70 weeks for animals exposed when three months old. No fibrotic reaction was seen during the 70 weeks of the amosite experiments. The relationships between pathological and functional changes throughout these experiments are discussed, and explanations for the apparent differences in fibrogenicity between chrysotile and amosite are suggested. Early detection of asbestosis may be aided by use of lung function tests known to be sensitive to small airways disease.
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