OBJECTIVE--To investigate whether a lack of glutathione-S-transferase mu (GSTM1) activity was related to an increased risk for adverse outcome after asbestos exposure. METHODS--A study was made of 78 male former asbestos cement workers, with retrospective cohort data on exposure, radiographical findings, and lung function. Venous blood samples were obtained for the analysis of GSTM1 polymorphism by the polymerase chain reaction technique. Chest x ray films were classified according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 1980 classification. Vital capacity (VC) and forced expiratory volume during 1 s (FEV1) were determined. Individual estimates of asbestos exposure were calculated, and expressed as duration of exposure, average exposure intensity, and cumulative dose. Data on smoking were obtained from interviews. RESULTS--The lung function in the study group was reduced, compared with reference equations. 23% of the workers had small opacities > or = 1/0, 29% circumscribed pleural thickenings, 14% diffuse thickenings, and 12% obliterated costophrenic angles. 54% of the workers were GSTM1 deficient. They were comparable with the other workers in age, follow up time (median 30 years), and duration of exposure (median 18 years), but had a slightly higher cumulated dose (median 18 v 10 fibre-years) than the others. Neither in radiographical changes nor lung function variables were there any differences between the different GSTM1 groups. The findings were similar when smoking habits and estimated asbestos exposure were taken into account. CONCLUSIONS--We could not show that lack of GSTM1 activity was related to an increased risk for radiographical or lung function changes in a group of asbestos cement workers, followed up for a long period after the end of exposure.
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