The 1980 International Labour Office (ILO) classification of posteroanterior chest radiographs was used to obtain the scores for profusion of small opacities and pleural abnormalities of 172 men with confirmed or suspected disease of the lungs due to asbestos. After allowance had been made for age, stature, and smoking habit the quantitative score for area of diffuse pleural thickening seen in profile on both lateral chest walls contributed to reductions in inspiratory capacity, expiratory reserve volume, and forced expiratory flow rates. Occlusion of one or both costophrenic angles in the presence of diffuse thickening was associated with further reduction in inspiratory capacity. Profusion of small opacities was associated with a reduction in transfer factor. Diffuse pleural thickening and occlusion of costophrenic angles were associated with relatively low values for the forced expiratory flow rates (MEF50FVC) and FEV1/FVC, whereas small opacities were associated with relatively high values. Thus overall increased, normal, or reduced values of MEF50FVC and FEV1/FVC might occur, depending on the distribution of the radiographic abnormalities. The findings contribute to the validation of the ILO pleural scores; those for diffuse pleural thickening and occlusion of costophrenic angles should be used jointly with the scores for profusion of parenchymal small opacities in interpreting the lung function of persons exposed to asbestos.
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