Even babies have asbestos in their lungs, according to a letter in the March ARCHIVES OF PATHOLOGY AND LABORATORY MEDICINE.
While autopsies on adults have shown that most people have pulmonary deposits of the flame-retardant mineral, this is apparently the first report in babies, says Abida K. Haque of the University of Texas in Galveston, who with two co-workers reported the finding. Asbestos deposits over time can limit lung function and cause a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. Until more studies are done, Haque is not willing to predict the long-term implications of the finding. The Texas researchers looked at lungs from 17 babies aged 2.5 to 10 months who died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or infectious diseases. Five of the 10 SIDS babies and one of the others had asbestos in their lungs; some of them had levels as high as adults with mesothelioma. The babies may have been exposed to asbestos insulation, or they may have picked it up from having been in old incubators fitted with asbestos-containing gaskets, she suggests.
The preponderance of asbestos in SIDS babies shouldn’t be construed as a cause of SIDS, the researchers note. They suggest the SIDS babies may, for an independent reason, have encountered more asbestos, or that their lungs may have been less able to clear the mineral than those of the other infants.