The prevalence of pleural plaques and/or pulmonary changes among construction workers in Okayama, Japan

Am J Ind Med. 2000 Mar;37(3):291-5. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(200003)37:3<291::aid-ajim7>;2-a.


Background: Since asbestos has been widely used in Japanese building materials since 1960s, a large number of Japanese construction workers may be exposed to asbestos occupationally.

Methods: Among 2951 construction workers in Okayama, Japan, the prevalence of asbestos-induced pleural or pulmonary changes was examined by screening chest x-rays; these findings were confirmed by computed tomography (CT) scanning of the chest.

Results: Among 2951 construction workers, 168 (5.7%) were found to have significant findings for pleural plaque or pulmonary changes on chest x-ray. Seventy-four had both pleural plaque and asbestosis, 85 pleural plaques alone, and 9 asbestosis alone. In 11 subjects, pleural plaques were suggested by chest x-ray, but neither pleural plaque nor asbestosis was demonstrated by chest CT. Honeycombing as one of the characteristic findings of asbestosis was found in 29 subjects. Others showed subpleural spots or curvilinear shadow, which suggested the early stage of asbestosis. The occupations of these workers were carpenters (64), plasterers (27), and concrete board cutters (14). About 30% of the workers with these findings were aware that they were handling asbestos in activities such as installation of asbestos boards, and/or asbestos spraying.

Conclusions: As the incidence of malignant mesothelioma and primary lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure are high, screening by chest CT is necessary for detecting asbestos-induced pulmonary and/or pleural lesions. Education for protection such as telling about the presence of asbestos in building materials is also necessary.

MeSH terms

  • Asbestosis / epidemiology*
  • Construction Materials / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Lung Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Lung Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pleural Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Pleural Diseases / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed