The relation between dust exposure, retained lung dust, and pneumoconiosis have been examined in 430 dead coalminers who had participated in a large scale epidemiological survey of respiratory health. The men were divided into three groups depending on the presence of particular lesions in their lungs. Lungs containing no fibrotic lesions in excess of 1 mm were included in the "M" group, those with fibrotic lesions of between 1 mm and 9 mm in diameter were included in the "F" group, and those with any lesion 10 mm or more were categorised as having progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). The men were further divided into four groups according to the rank of coal mined at the colliery of employment. The mean weight of lung dust increased over the pathological range (M----F----PMF) regardless of the rank of coal mined. The men with PMF had not received unusually high exposures to dust in life but were found to have accumulated more dust in their lungs per unit of dust exposure than men without PMF, providing further evidence for differences in the patterns of deposition or clearance, or both, of dust in these men compared with those who do not develop PMF. For men who had mined the higher rank coals there was no difference in the composition of the lung dust between the pathological groups. Lungs from men mining low rank coal, however, showed a striking increase in the proportion of ash over the pathological groups (M, F, and PMF). In men who had mined low rank coal the proportion of ash in the airborne dust to which they had been exposed and in the dust retained in their lungs was, as expected, greater than in men who had worked with higher rank coals. For the same men, and particularly associated with the presence of some dust related fibrosis, the proportion of ash in retained dust was higher than that in the dust to which the men were exposed suggesting the occurrence of selective deposition or retention of the mineral components of dust in this group.
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