Purpose: Automobile mechanics have been exposed to asbestos in the past, mainly due to the presence of chrysotile asbestos in brakes and clutches. Despite the large number of automobile mechanics, little is known about the non-malignant respiratory diseases observed in this population. The aim of this retrospective multicenter study was to analyse the frequency of pleural and parenchymal abnormalities on high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) in a population of automobile mechanics.
Methods: The study population consisted of 103 automobile mechanics with no other source of occupational exposure to asbestos, referred to three occupational health departments in the Paris area for systematic screening of asbestos-related diseases. All subjects were examined by HRCT and all images were reviewed separately by two independent readers; who in the case of disagreement discussed until they reached agreement. Multiple logistic regression models were constructed to investigate factors associated with pleural plaques.
Results: Pleural plaques were observed in five cases (4.9%) and interstitial abnormalities consistent with asbestosis were observed in one case. After adjustment for age, smoking status, and a history of non-asbestos-related respiratory diseases, multiple logistic regression models showed a significant association between the duration of exposure to asbestos and pleural plaques.
Conclusions: The asbestos exposure experienced by automobile mechanics may lead to pleural plaques. The low prevalence of non-malignant asbestos-related diseases, using a very sensitive diagnostic tool, is in favor of a low cumulative exposure to asbestos in this population of workers.