Evidence Suggesting the End of Universal Domestic Asbestos Exposure in Metsovo, NW Greece

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Background: Inhabitants of Metsovo, NW Greece, had been domestically exposed to asbestos from a gradually abandoned whitewash (“luto”) that resulted in a declining epidemic of malignant mesothelioma. Objectives: We aimed to evaluate whether other sources of asbestos exposure exist following “luto” abandonment. Methods: Chest computed tomography (CT) and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) were used to evaluate residual asbestos exposure in younger Metsovites through the identification of pleural calcifications and asbestos bodies, respectively. In order to provide a historical universally exposed group for comparison, we used the accumulated chest CTs and chest roentgenograms of our previous studies, performed in Metsovites with confirmed exposure but negative chest roentgenogram. As an additional external comparison group, we also assessed CT scans and chest roentgenograms of Metsovites being older than our target group obtained from the records of the Radiology Department between 2009 and 2011. In order to be able to compare our BAL findings, we sought historical controls among BAL studies performed in Metsovites with known exposure to “luto,” in the 1980s-1990s, mainly to evaluate alveolitis. Those belonging to individuals of the same age range were used for further comparison. Results: Twenty-two Metsovites born between 1960 and 1980 consented to undergo a chest CT scan, while another 14 CTs were retrieved from the records of the Radiology Department (among 86 of all ages), thus increasing the number of individuals studied to 36. Five of the 36 Metsovites studied were former “luto” users for a short period of time. Minimal pleural calcifications were present in 2 of them, while all chest CTs of nonusers were negative. All 8 BAL studies were negative for asbestos bodies. Conclusion: “Luto” use seems to have been the only source of considerable asbestos exposure in Metsovo.

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