Risk of asbestosis in crocidolite and amosite mines in South Africa

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1979;330:35-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1979.tb18708.x.


X-rays of all while and mixed-race men employed in crocidolite and amosite mines and mills were read independently by three experienced readers according to the ILO U/C classification. Abnormality was regarded as present if reported by two or more readers. Parenchymal abnormality, defined as the presence of small irregular opacities of profusion 1/0 or greater, was found in 7.3% of the workers. Pleural thickening was found in 4.5% of the workers, costophrenic angle obliteration in 3.2%, and pleural calcification in 1.7%. The prevalences of both pleural and parenchymal abnormality were strongly related to the duration of exposure to asbestos at work. The overall prevalence of abnormality increase from 4.0% in men with exposure for 1 year or less to 47.9% in men with more than 15 years of exposure. After taking into account the effects of age and duration of asbestos exposure, the prevalence of pleural abnormality was not predicted by fiber concentration. However, white men working with amosite tended to develop a higher prevalence of pleural abnormality than did those working with crocidolite. Compared to whites, men of mixed race, who only work with crocidolite, had a high prevalence of pleural abnormality in each exposure duration category. In contrast to pleural abnormality, the prevalence of parenchymal abnormality, after taking into account the effects of age and duration of exposure, was significantly predicted by fiber concentration but not by race or asbestos type. Our results suggest that parenchymal abnormality in workers in South African asbestos mines could be largely prevented by reducing exposure to fibers visible under the light microscope. However, this may not be the case for pleural abnormality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Asbestosis / epidemiology*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mining*
  • Pleural Diseases / epidemiology
  • Risk
  • South Africa
  • Time Factors


  • Asbestos