Doll Factories Pose Occupational Hazard for Asbestos Exposure, Italian Study Finds

Doll Factories Pose Occupational Hazard for Asbestos Exposure, Italian Study Finds

Women who work in cloth doll factories are exposed to asbestos and therefore have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma, an Italian study found.

The report, “Pleural mesothelioma in doll manufacture: possible asbestos exposure,” appeared in the Italian medical journal La Medicina del Lavoro. An English abstract can be found here.

Men are more likely to have been exposed to asbestos through their jobs, though the occupational risk for women is more difficult to identify and is therefore determined to be “unknown” or arising from environmental factors.

A previous study identified two cases of malignant mesothelioma in women who worked in cloth doll factories. The authors of the current study wanted to re-examine this hypothesis and assessed women’s mesothelioma risk linked to this kind of occupation.

The province of Brescia established a registry in 1993 that chronicled mesothelioma cases in the area. Of 757 mesothelioma cases recorded in 2016,  the authors identified three women who had worked in doll factories and who were diagnosed with malignant pleural epithelial mesothelioma. Interestingly, in all three cases, their asbestos exposure had originally been listed as “unknown” — and two of the three worked in the same facility.

“The occurrence of two mesothelioma cases in the same company out of the three here presented was suggesting an occupational exposure,” wrote the study’s author, Pietrogino Barbieri.

An autopsy on one of the women used sophisticated scanning electron microscopy to examine the concentration of asbestos in her lung tissue. It showed that the concentration of specific fibers associated with asbestos was 12 million per gram of dry tissue — which is industrial-grade exposure. This finding led to the reclassification of the woman’s exposure to asbestos from “unknown” to “occupational certified.” Similar assumptions were made for the other two women.

These results identify a new occupational hazard for the development of mesothelioma — and also raise concerns for people working in other textile-related industries such as garment factories and cotton plants.

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