Respiratory cancer and exposure to man-made vitreous fibers: a systematic review

Am J Ind Med. 2002 Oct;42(4):354-62. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10111.


Background: Man-made vitreous fibers (MMVF's) have some structural features similar to those found in asbestos. This has lead to concern that exposure to MMVF's could increase the risk of respiratory cancer.

Methods: Bibliographic resources were used to identify 10 case-control and 10 cohort studies, which analyzed the relationship between exposure to MMVF's and cancer of the respiratory system. Standardized mortality ratio's (SMR's) were extracted from the cohort studies for a meta-analysis.

Results: A significant increase in SMR was observed for workers exposed to rock and glass wool, but not in workers exposed to glass filament. Meta-analysis of SMR's after stratification by fiber type resulted in aggregate estimates of risk of 1.23 (95% CI = 1.10-1.38), 1.08 (95% CI = 0.93-1.26), and 1.32 (95% CI = 1.15-1.52) for exposure to glass wool, glass filament, and rock wool, respectively. Some or all of the increased mortality could be attributed to tobacco use.

Conclusions: The results highlight the difficulty of assessing small increases in risk of respiratory cancer potentially caused by occupational exposure in populations with high prevalence of tobacco use.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Asbestos*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Glass*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Mineral Fibers / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Mineral Fibers
  • Asbestos