Objective and background: Asbestos exposure induces generation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Nitric oxide is involved in asbestos-related lung toxicity in vitro and can be measured non-invasively in humans in exhaled breath. The authors hypothesized that fractional exhaled nitric oxide concentration (FENO) would be increased in subjects with asbestos-related lung disorders.
Methods: FENO was measured in 56 subjects with asbestos-related disorders (asbestosis: 12; pleural plaques: 32; asbestos-related diffuse pleural thickening: 12) and in 35 normal subjects. The authors also measured exhaled carbon monoxide, another marker of lung inflammation.
Results: Median (25-75 percentile) FENO was increased in subjects with asbestosis (7.9 (6.6-15.7) p.p.b.; P=0.001) and pleural plaques (6.3 (5.3-9) p.p.b.; P=0.03) compared with normal controls (4.6 (3.5-6) p.p.b.). Subjects with DPT had a median FENO of 5.6 p.p.b., similar to controls. No significant differences in exhaled carbon monoxide were observed between controls (1.0+/-0.3 p.p.m.) and subjects with asbestosis (1.3+/-0.3 p.p.m.), pleural plaques (1.2+/-0.3 p.p.m.) or diffuse pleural thickening (1.1+/-0.3 p.p.m.).
Conclusions: FENO is raised in asbestosis consistent with lung inflammation, and also in pleural plaques.