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Pneumoconiosis after sericite inhalation


Background: Between 1997 and 1999 three sericite plant workers in Paraná, Brazil, were diagnosed with pneumoconiosis.

Aims: To investigate and describe the radiological, clinical, and pathological changes in miners and millers exposed to sericite dust with mineralogical characteristics of inhaled dust.

Methods: The working premises were visited to examine the sericite processing and to classify the jobs according to make qualitative evaluation. Respirable dust was collected and the amount of crystalline silica and particle size distribution were measured. Forty four workers were examined by a standard questionnaire for respiratory symptoms, spirometry, and chest x ray. Material from an open lung biopsy was reviewed for histopathological and mineralogical analysis, together with sericite samples from the work site to compare the mineral characteristics in lung lesions and work area.

Results: Respirable dust contained 4.5–10.0% crystalline silica. Particle size distribution showed a heavy burden of very fine particles (23–55%) with a mean diameter of <0.5 μm. Mean age of sericite miners was 41.0 (11.9) and mean number of years of exposure was 13.5 (10.1). In 52.3% of workers (23/44), chest radiographs presented a median category of 1/0 or above, and 18.2% (8/44) had a reduced FEV1. There was a significant association between exposure indices and x ray category. Histological studies of the lung biopsy showed lesions compatible with mixed dust fibrosis with no silicotic nodules. x Ray diffraction analysis of the lung dust residue and the bulk samples collected from work area showed similar mineralogical characteristics. Muscovite and kaolinite were the major mineral particle inclusions in the lung.

Conclusion: Exposure to fine sericite particles is associated with the development of functional and radiological changes in workers inducing mixed dust lesions, which are distinct histologically from silicosis.

  • mixed dust pneumoconiosis
  • sericite
  • sericite pneumoconiosis
  • silicate pneumoconiosis

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