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Korean Journal of Epidemiology 1995;17(1): 76-93.
An Epidemiologic Study on the Health Hazards of Inhabitants chronically exposed to Glass Fiber.
Hyun Sul Lim, Yun Chul Hong, Jung Ran Kim, Hae Kwan Cheong, Ji Yong Kim, Nam Won Paik, Hoe Kyeong Cheong, Chong Han Lem
Abstract
Fiberglass, as a substitute of asbestos, is used for more than 60 years as a insulator material. Health hazards including irritation of skin, mucosa and respiratory system associated with use of fiberglass is reported. Many studies on the fibrogenicity and carcinogenicity of fiberglass was conducted but evidence is not sufficient to confirm the carcinogenicity or fibrogenicity. Authors studied the health hazards among 152 inhabitants(71 men and 81 women) from 32 households living around the fiberglass factory which produced the fiberglass insulators and glasswool panels for 20 years. Questionnaire survey on household and persons, examination of underground water, pathologic examination of subcutaneous tumors and examination of fiberglass in tumor tissues were done. The results are as follows; 1. Fiberglass concentration of underground water sampled from 33 households in the study area was 13. 7-95. 9 fiber/cc with the diameter to length ratio more than 1:20. 2. Prevalence of dermatosis among study subjects was 23.0 % (35 cases). Prevalence was not associated with the distance from the factory nor duration of exposure. 3. There were 15 cases of subcutaneous tumor with prevalence of 9. 9 %. Age of subcutaneous tumor cases was all above 30 year-old except one cases, who was 5 year old child, who lived in the surveyed area since he was born. Prevalence of subcutaneous tumor was significantly high in area A(42.9 %) than area B(4.6 %, p<0.01). Prevalence of subcutaneous tumor was higher in long-term exposed inhabitants, but was not statistically significant. 4. Pathologic examination exhibits partly encapsulated fat tissue masses and cut surfaces were pale yellow with gritty sensation. The masses consist of mature fat cells showing variation in size and shape. On polarizing microscope, the peripheries of tumors include small irregular threads of doubly refractile material probably represent glass fibers in fibrocollagenous tissue. Concentration of fiberglass in tissue was 5.1-10.2 fiber/rag wet tissue in case 1, 25.8-184.9 fiber/mg wet tissue in case 2 and 40.8-126.5 fiber/mg wet tissue in case 3. Length of fiberglass was shorter than that in underground water. 5. Cases of malignant tumor among inhabitants since last 10 years were 4, 3 of whom was developed in a same household just near the factory. Diagnoses of malignancy cases were stomach cancer, stomach and esophageal cancer, oral cavity cancer, and stomach cancer with liver metastasis. On review examination of tissues of endoscopic biopsy specimen from a case of stomach cancer, there was adenocarcinoma with no evidence of fiberglass materials. Authors concluded there is evidences that fiberglass was strongly associated with the development of the health hazards including dermatosis and benign subcutaneous tumor. However, the association of fiberglass exposure with the development of malignant tumor was not clear, although strongly suggested. For the prevention of development of further health hazards, it is recommended that under ground water source should be closed and further experimental study to confirm the mechanism of the tumorigenesis and follow up survey on the inhabitants should be conducted.


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