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New guidance out on asbestos-related ills

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WASHINGTON, Sep 15, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- New American Thoracic Society guidelines recommend using lung function tests and an expansive work history to help diagnose asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber once used extensively in insulation. If breathed in it can scar the lungs and cause the membrane covering the lungs and walls of the chest to thicken, develop plague or swell with fluid.

Some 1.3 million construction industry and maintenance workers still face asbestos risks today, said the 11-member ATS panel of experts in a statement Wednesday.

ATA said doctors suspecting asbestos-related ailments should get at least a 15-year work history. Workers who are or were involved in the manufacture of asbestos products, asbestos mining and milling are at risk, as are those in the construction trades -- insulators, sheet metal workers, electricians, plumbers, pipe fitters and carpenters. Power plant workers, boilermakers and shipyard workers may also face asbestos exposure.

While X-rays are useful in diagnosis, high resolution computed tomography offers a more sensitive analysis, said the ATS. Doctors should also perform a lung function test and sometimes collect samples from deep in the lung.

The statement appears in the second September edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.


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