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Effects of rock wool on the lungs evaluated by magnetometry and biopersistence test

Author(s): Kudo Yuichiro | Kotani Makoto | Tomita Masayuki | Aizawa Yoshiharu

Journal: Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology
ISSN 1745-6673

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 5;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Abstract Background Asbestos has been reported to cause pulmonary fibrosis, and its use has been banned all over the world. The related industries are facing an urgent need to develop a safer fibrous substance. Rock wool (RW), a kind of asbestos substitute, is widely used in the construction industry. In order to evaluate the safety of RW, we performed a nose-only inhalation exposure study in rats. After one-month observation period, the potential of RW fibers to cause pulmonary toxicity was evaluated based on lung magnetometry findings, pulmonary biopersistence, and pneumopathology. Methods Using the nose-only inhalation exposure system, 6 male Fischer 344 rats (6 to 10 weeks old) were exposed to RW fibers at a target fiber concentration of 100 fibers/cm3 (length [L] > 20 μm) for 6 hours daily, for 5 consecutive days. As a magnetometric indicator, 3 mg of triiron tetraoxide suspended in 0.2 mL of physiological saline was intratracheally administered after RW exposure to these rats and 6 unexposed rats (controls). During one second magnetization in 50 mT external magnetic field, all magnetic particles were aligned, and immediately afterwards the strength of their remanent magnetic field in the rat lungs was measured in both groups. Magnetization and measurement of the decay (relaxation) of this remanent magnetic field was performed over 40 minutes on 1, 3, 14, and 28 days after RW exposure, and reflected cytoskeleton dependent intracellular transport within macrophages in the lung. Similarly, 24 and 12 male Fisher 344-rats were used for biopersistence test and pathologic evaluation, respectively. Results In the lung magnetometric evaluation, biopersistence test and pathological evaluation, the arithmetic mean value of the total fiber concentration was 650.2, 344.7 and 390.7 fibers/cm3, respectively, and 156.6, 93.1 and 95.0 fibers/cm3 for fibers with L > 20 μm, respectively. The lung magnetometric evaluation revealed that impaired relaxation indicating cytoskeletal toxicity did not occur in the RW exposure group. In addition, clearance of the magnetic tracer particles was not significantly affected by the RW exposure. No effects on lung pathology were noted after RW exposure. Conclusion These findings indicate that RW exposure is unlikely to cause pulmonary toxicity within four weeks period. Lung magnetometry studies involving long-term exposure and observation will be necessary to ensure the safety of RW.

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