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Histological findings and lung dust analysis as the basis for occupational disease compensation in asbestos-related lung cancer in Germany

Anja Theile 1,  
Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany (Institute for Pathology)
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2018;31(3):293–305
Referred to by: Landrigan PJ, Lemen RA. Letter to the Editor (April 4, 2018) concerning the paper “Histological findings and lung dust analysis as the basis for occupational disease compensation in asbestos-related lung cancer in Germany”. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. Forthcoming 2018, https://doi.org/10.13075/ ijomeh.1896.01345.

Objectives: This study has researched the significance of histologically raised findings and lung dust analyses in the context of claiming the recognition of and thus compensation for an asbestos-associated occupational disease. Material and Methods: For this approach, all findings from the German Mesothelioma Register in 2015 that included lung dust analyses were evaluated and were compared with information on asbestos fiber exposure at work based on fiber years, and with the results of radiological findings. Results: For 68 insured persons, recognition of an asbestos-induced lung disease according to Section 4104 of the German Ordinance on Occupational Diseases (Berufskrankheitenverordnung – BKV) could be recommended solely on the basis of the histological examinations of lung tissues and complementary lung dust analyses. Neither did the calculation of the cumulative asbestos dust exposure at work yield 25 fiber years, nor could bridge findings (e.g., plaques) be identified. In addition, the autopsies of 12 patients revealed plaques that had not been diagnosed during radiological examinations. These results show that – irrespective of the prescribed working techniques and radiological diagnosis – pathological/anatomical and histological diagnostics are often the only way for the insureds to demonstrate the causal connection between asbestos and their disease. Even after long intervals of up to 40 years post last exposure, the asbestos fibers would still be easily detectable in the lung tissues evaluated. Conclusions: Whenever suitable tissue is available, it should be examined for mild asbestosis with the aid of a lung dust analysis. Otherwise there is a risk that an occupational disease is wrongfully rejected. In the context of health insurance, the lung dust analysis and the resulting proof of the presence of asbestosis often constitute one option of providing evidence of an occupational disease. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2018;31(3):293–305
Andrea Tannapfel   
Ruhr University Bochum, Institute for Pathology, Bürkle-de-la-Camp Platz 1, D-44789 Bochum, Germany