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From coal mine dust to quartz: mechanisms of pulmonary pathogenicity.

Castranova V
Inhal Toxicol 2000 Sep; 12(Suppl 2):7-14
Exposure to coal mine dust or crystalline silica can result in the initiation and progression of interstitial lung disease. Pathogenesis is the consequence of damage to lung cells and resulting lung scarring associated with activation of fibrotic processes. This review presents the radiologic and histologic characteristics of simple and complicated coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) as well as pathological indices of acute and chronic silicosis. This presentation also reviews the results of in vitro, animal, and human investigations that elucidate mechanisms involved in the development of these pneumoconioses. Results support the involvement of four basic mechanisms in the etiology of CWP and silicosis: 1. Direct cytotoxicity of coal dust or silica, resulting in lung cell damage, release of lipases and proteases, and eventual lung scarring. 2. Activation of oxidant production by pulmonary phagocytes, such as alveolar macrophages. When oxidant production exceeds antioxidant defenses, lipid peroxidation and protein nitrosation occur, resulting in tissue injury and consequent scarring. 3. Activation of mediator release from alveolar macrophages and alveolar epithelial cells. Chemokines recruit polymorphonuclear leukocytes and macrophages from the pulmonary capillaries into the air spaces. Once within the air spaces, these leukocytes are activated by proinflammatory cytokines to produce reactive species, which increase oxidant injury and lung scarring. 4. Secretion of growth factors from alveolar macrophages and alveolar epithelial cells. Release of such mediators stimulates fibroblast proliferation and induces fibrosis. In conclusion, results of in vitro and animal studies have provided the basis for proposing mechanisms that may lead to the initiation and progression of CWP and silicosis. Data obtained from exposed workers has lent support to these proposals. The mechanistic understanding obtained for the development of CWP and silicosis should be useful in elucidating the possible pathogenicity of other inhaled particles.
Coal dust; Coal mining; Quartz dust; Pathogenicity; Exposure levels; Lung disease; Pulmonary system disorders; Respiratory system disorders; Lung fibrosis; Fibrosis; Pneumoconiosis; Silicosis; In vitro studies; Silica dusts; Respirable dust
Vincent Castranova, NIOSH/HELD/PPRB, Mail Stop L-2015, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA
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Journal Article
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NIOSH Division
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Inhalation Toxicology
Page last reviewed: June 15, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division