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Glossary of Asbestos-Related Terms

  • ABGs: arterial blood gases
  • acidosis: a disorder caused when the body fluids have an abnormally high acid content, as in uncontrolled diabetes mellitus and in uremia.
  • acrocyanosis: a blue discoloration of the hands and feet due to a disturbance in blood circulation.
  • adenocarcinoma: a neoplasm of glandular epithelium which is malignant.
  • adenoma: a benign tumor of gland-like structure or of glandular origin.
  • adhesion: an abnormal sticking together of organs or tissues, sometimes resulting in obstructions requiring surgery.
  • alveoli: the air cells of the lungs.
  • alveolitis: inflammation of the alveoli. In pneumonia, only the localized segments of lung tissue are involved.
  • alkalosis: a condition of increased alkalinity of the blood. Caused by excessive intake of alkali or excessive acid loss and may result in muscular irritability and convulsions.
  • amosite: a type of asbestos of the amphibole variety accounting for 3% of all asbestos used. Its color varies from gray to yellow to dark brown, and its fibers are coarse in texture. Fibers are somewhat pliable, have good flexibility but only fair spinnability. Amosite was used for asbestos cement, pipe, and roofing materials.
  • anasarca: edema characterized by the normal accumulation of serum in connective tissue.
  • anthracosis: the benign deposition of coal dust in lungs from inhalation of soot in the air.
  • apices: the top portions of the lungs.
  • asbestos bodies: inhaled asbestos fibril particles that are coated with iron-containing mucoprotein and imbedded in lung tissue. They are usually drumhead or dumbbell-shaped. Their presence in sputum or in parenchymal tissue is considered strong evidence of some exposure to asbestos.
  • asbestos corns: these corns may develop when rigid and sharp asbestos fibers penetrate the human skin (esp. the hands) and cause a chronic skin irritation. Skin cancers are not induced, and asbestos corns are not symptomatic of any disease entity.
  • asbestosis: diffuse pulmonary fibrosis caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles. The alveoli and bronchioles respond to the asbestos fibers with macrophages, then fibroblasts produce collagen, which forms the characteristic fibrosis.
  • ASHD: arteriosclerotic heart disease. A chronic disease characterized by degenerative hardening and thickening of the arterial walls, often resulting in deficient blood supply to tissues and organs.
  • ascites: the abnormal accumulation of serum in the abdominal cavity. Also called hydroperitoneum. asthma, occupational: a diffuse, intermittent, reversible airways obstruction caused by the inhalation of irritants or allergenic particles or vapors from industrial processes.
  • atelectasis: the collapse or incomplete expansion of a lung or of part of a lung.
  • athrocyte: a cell with the ability to pick up foreign matter and store it in granular form in its cytoplasm.
  • basilar: pertaining to the base part of an organ.
  • benign pleural effusion: nonmalignant effusion, a clear viscous serofibrinous fluid (occasionally bloody), found in the pleural cavity. It is often accompanied by pleural thickening.
  • bilateral pleural thickening: thickening of the pleura of both sides of the lungs.
  • biopsy: the microscopic confirmation of the presence of asbestos bodies or fibrosis in a small segment of tissue. This is done by open chest biopsy, needle biopsy, or transbronchial biopsy technique.
  • bleb: an air-containing space seldom exceeding 1-2 cm., subpleural and most frequently developing over lung apices. Development of blebs has been attributed to dissection of air over a ruptured alveolus, where it accumulates in the visceral pleura in the form of a cyst. Blebs basically represent paraseptal emphysema and are usually regarded as the major cause of spontaneous pneumothorax.
  • bronchiectasis: a chronic inflammatory or degenerative condition of one or more bronchi or bronchioles, marked by dilation or loss of elasticity of the chest walls.
  • bronchogenic carcinoma: a primary malignant tumor originating in the bronchus of a lung.
  • bronchiole: a small division of a bronchus.
  • bronchitis: inflammation of the bronchial tubes.
  • bronchoscopy, flexible fiberoptic: exam of the bronchi by passing down a flexible tube containing glass fibers with special optical properties which carries light down and returns a clear magnified image.
  • bronchus: one of the two terminal divisions of the trachea, each of which carries air to one lung.
  • bullae: intrapulmonary structures usually attributed to excessive rupture of alveolar walls. They appear to affect upper and lower lobes equally and may develop in the absence of generalized emphysema. Their walls are composed of compressed parenchymal tissue and strands of emphysematous lung.
  • calcification: the process of hardening of body tissues by their infiltration with calcium.
  • cancerophobia: an obsessive fear of cancer.
  • carcinogenic: capable of producing carcinoma or cancer.
  • carcinoid: a tumor, usually benign or of low-grade malignancy, which is often found in the intestines.
  • carcinoma: a malignant tumor of epithelial origin.
  • cardiovascular: pertaining to the heart and the blood vessels.
  • CBC: complete blood count, consisting of a hemoglobin and hematocrit determination, a red cell count, a white cell count, and a differential count of the white cells.
  • chronic bronchitis: a condition associated with prolonged exposure to nonspecific bronchial irritants (usually cigarette smoke) and accompanied by alterations in the bronchi. It is characterized by a chronic productive cough.
  • chrysotile: a type of asbestos of the serpentine variety accounting for 90% of all asbestos used. Its fibers take the shape of a spirally wound tube, are soft, flexible and small in diameter. Its color is green, gray, amber, or white. It is of high tensile strength and was used in asbestos cement, pipe, sheet roofing, flooring, electrical and thermal insulation and friction products.
  • clubbing: a condition characterized by increased curvature of the nails, blood congestion in nailbeds, and increased size of the distal phalanges. Clubbing may appear in advanced cases of asbestosis, but it appears more frequently in other types of pneumoconioses.
  • COHb: carboxyhemoglobin. A compound formed from hemoglobin on exposure to carbon monoxide.
  • collagen: an insoluble fibrous protein that appears in bones and connective tissue fibrils.
  • collagen disease: one of a group of chronic diseases affecting the connective tissue as well as multiple joints and organs.
  • colloid: a substance (such as gelatin or starch) which, when dissolved in water, diffuses very slowly through a membrane.
  • COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. See "obstructive lung disease."
  • cor pulmonale: right-sided heart failure. The right ventricle becomes hypertrophied and dilated due to the back pressure within the pulmonary blood circuit created by diseased lungs.
  • costophrenic angle: the angle between the diaphragm and the chest wall.
  • coughing: an early, nonspecific symptom of asbestosis is a dry cough, sometimes associated with chest pains. It is most common in asbestos workers with a history of cigarette smoking.
  • crocidolite: a type of asbestos of the amphibole variety accounting for 3 1/2% of all asbestos used. It is an acid-resistant blue fiber with very high tensile strength, but does not rate as highly in terms of resistance to destruction by heat. It has good flexibility and fair spinnability and was frequently used for thermal insulation, grouting, and lagging.
  • cyanosis: a bruise-like discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes, that is particularly caused by deficient oxygen content in the blood.
  • cytology: the branch of biology concerned with the study of cells.
  • cytoxic: toxic or destructive to cells.
  • diffuse: not concentrated, or not localized.
  • diffuse basilar rales: an early distinctive clinical sign of respiratory disease. Rales are crackling noises, unaffected by coughing or deep inspiration, that are heard in the lungs.
  • diffusion: the process by which molecules move from a region of high concentration to one of lower concentration, as in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs.
  • DLCO: diffusing capacity. A study of lung function defined as the number of milliliters of carbon monoxide absorbed per minute per millimeter of mercury.
  • DOE: dyspnea on exertion.
  • dyspnea: shortness of breath. It is an early nonspecific symptom of the onset of pulmonary disease.
  • echasia: a stretching of the alveolar spaces characteristic of emphysema.
  • edema: an abnormal accumulation of serous fluid in connective tissue, or in a serous cavity (peritoneal or pleural), causing swelling, distention, and compression. It is usually associated with cardiac insufficiency or with kidney malfunction.
  • effusion: the abnormal escape of a fluid from anatomical vessels by rupture or exudation; also free fluid within a joint or cavity.
  • electron microscopy: microscopic study utilizing streams of electrons deflected from their course by an electrostatic or electromagnetic field for the magnification of objects. Images may be magnified up to 400,000 diameters.
  • embolism, pulmonary: the lodging of a blood clot in a pulmonary artery with subsequent obstruction of blood supply to the lung parenchyma.
  • emphysema, pulmonary: a chronic disease of the lungs in which enough functional units (alveoli) have been destroyed by disease to prevent proper exchange of gases within the units. As a result, new air in the lung spaces cannot be efficiently utilized for oxygenation purposes.
  • empyema: an accumulation of pus within a cavity, especially the chest cavity.
  • epidemiology: the science of dealing with incidence, distribution and control of disease in a population. Also, those factors controlling the presence or absence of a disease. The pathology regarding the specific cause of a disease.
  • epithelioma: a benign or malignant tumor derived from epithelial tissue.
  • epithelium: the layer of cells forming the surface of skin and mucous membranes. In general, it serves to protect, absorb and secrete, in addition to other specialized functions.
  • etiology: the study of the causes of diseases.
  • ferroprotein: the brown-colored protein produced by the lung, which surrounds particles precipitated by iron salts and other minerals.
  • ferruginous body: a general term that describes any fiber (glass, cotton, talc, etc.) in the lung that is covered by an iron-containing coating.
  • FEV: forced expiratory volume. Refers to the amount of air breathed in and out in one second. It is a test of vital capacity.
  • fibroblast: a mesenchyme cell which produces collagen to make connective tissue, blood, bone and cartilage.
  • fibrosis: abnormal formation of fibrous tissue.
  • FRC: functional residual capacity. It is the volume of air in the lungs at the end of a normal tidal expiration when all respiratory muscles are relaxed.
  • FVC: forced vital capacity. The maximum volume of air that can be forcibly expired after a full inspiratory effort.
  • glycogen: the form in which carbohydrate is stored in the body for future conversion into sugar and subsequent use as a source of energy.
  • hematamesis: the vomiting of blood.
  • hemidiaphragm: one half of the diaphragm.
  • hemithorax: one side of the chest.
  • hemothorax: blood in the pleural space.
  • hemoptysis: expectoration of blood as a result of respiratory tract bleeding. It is not to be confused with blood-streaked sputum, a common complaint, but is usually benign and seen with an upper respiratory tract infection.
  • hilum: the root of each lung before division into separate lobes.
  • histochemistry: study of the chemistry of cells and tissues by using both light and electron microscopy along with the use of special chemical tests and stains.
  • histology: the study of the microscopic structure of tissue.
  • hydropneumothorax: a simultaneous collection of fluid and air in the chest cavity resulting from lung disease or penetrating injuries of the chest wall.
  • hyperlucency: excessive radiolucency (overexposure) as pertaining to radiographic films
  • hypertension, pulmonary: a condition resulting from increased pulmonary vascular resistance. As a consequence, the right ventricle is forced to generate a higher pulmonary artery pressure to maintain normal cardiac output.
  • hypertrophy: a thickening and dilation.
  • hypoxia: oxygen deficiency.
  • infarction, pulmonary: hemorrhagic consolidation (often followed by necrosis) of lung parenchyma resulting from thromboembolic pulmonary artery occlusion.
  • interlobar: between the lobes of the lungs.
  • interstitial fibrosis: chronic inflammation of the alveolar walls with a tendency to destroy the lung architecture by consequent healing with progressively severe fibrosis. The progressive nature distinguishes it from other self-limiting forms of lung fibroses.
  • interstitium: the area between air sacs of the lung where the blood vessels are located and where oxygenation occurs.
  • ischemia: the absence of blood supply to an area.
  • koniphers: a single or cluster of dust-carrying cells.
  • lumen: the cavity or channel within a tubular organ, such as a blood vessel.
  • lymphocytosis: an increase in the number of lymphocytes in the blood, usually associated with chronic infections or inflammation.
  • macrophages: scavenger cells that keep the lung's air sacs clean.
  • mediastinum: the mass of organs and tissue in the middle of the chest, separating the lungs, containing the heart, esophagus, and other vital structures.
  • mesothelioma, malignant: diffuse cancers which spread rapidly over the surface of the lung, abdominal organs, and heart. Symptoms may include effusion, shortness of breath, pain, weight loss, restrictive lung disease, and nodular lesions (in pleural mesothelioma). The prognosis is rapid deterioration and death usually within one to two years of diagnosis.
  • mesothelioma, peritoneal: cancer of the lining of the abdominal cavity.
  • mesothelioma tissue: consists of a single layer of flat cells lining the surface of serous membranes in the lungs and abdomen. Respiration of these cells is impaired by scar tissue (fibrosis).
  • metastasis: the movement of body cells, especially cancer cells, from one part to another.
  • morphology: the science of form and structure without regard to function.
  • mucous carpet: the lining of the bronchial portion of the lungs. Its cells secrete mucus, which is swept through by cilia, removing the majority of inhaled particles. This material is then swallowed or spit out.
  • MVV: maximal voluntary ventilation, a measurement of lung function.
  • myeloma: a malignant tumor of the bone, often multiple, and characterized by the presence of a specific type of cell.
  • neoplasia: an abnormal state, characterized by the growth and development of benign or malignant tumors.
  • neoplasm: a general term that includes any new or abnormal growth, either benign or malignant.
  • oat cell carcinoma: a cancer not generally associated with asbestos exposure, particularly when it is found in the upper portion of the lung.
  • obstructive lung disease: characterized by an increase in airway resistance as a result of narrowing of the air passageways so that air flow is reduced. It is usually associated with smoking, emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma.
  • orthopnea: shortness of breath that occurs when lying down and is relieved by sitting or standing.

  • parenchyma: the essential parts of an organ that are concerned with its function as opposed to its framework.
  • parenchymal asbestosis: also known as diffuse interstitial pulmonary asbestosis.
  • pathogenic: causing or capable of causing disease.
  • pathogenesis: the origin and development of a disease.
  • peribronchial: situated around a bronchus.
  • peribronchitis: a form of bronchitis consisting of inflammation and thickening of the peribronchial tissue.
  • peritoneum: the smooth transparent membrane that lines the abdominal cavity.
  • phagocyte: any cell that characteristically engulfs foreign matter.
  • pleura: the delicate serous membranous lining designed to keep the lungs together and to prevent friction while breathing. It covers the lungs and lines the chest wall. The parietal pleura lines the inner surface of the chest wall, and the visceral pleura covers the outer surface.
  • pleural plaque: a localized abnormal fibrous thickening on the surface of the parietal pleura. The presence of pleural plaques indicates asbestos exposure and suggests ingestion of asbestos fibers.
  • pleurisy: inflammation of the pleura. Also referred to as pleuritis.
  • pneumococcus: the organism that causes pneumonia, among other infectious diseases.
  • pneumoconiosis: fibrosis of the lung due to dust inhalation. It is a chronic (not acute) lung disease.
  • pneumonia: inflammation of one or both lungs. In bronchopneumonia, the inflammation is concentrated around the bronchi. In lobar pneumonia, it involves one or more lobes of the lung, and viral pneumonia is that caused by a virus.
  • pneumonectomy: surgical removal of a lung.
  • pneumothorax: free air in the pleural cavity, between the visceral and parietal pleura.
  • pulmonary: related to, or associated with, the lungs.
  • pulmonary fibrosis: loss of elasticity of a lung due to proliferation of the connective tissue in the lung.
  • pulmonary function test: used to measure the ability of the lungs to function normally.
  • pulmonary insufficiency: a disorder occurring when the exchange of respiratory gases between the circulating blood and the ambient atmosphere is impaired. Chronic pulmonary insufficiency is commonly caused by airways obstruction and interstitial fibrosis.
  • radiographic changes: irregular opacities in the lung bases that gradually extend into the upper lung zones that appear on x-ray films The changes may be pleural thickening with subsequent pleural plaques.
  • rales: abnormal lung sounds accompanying normal respiratory sounds. They indicate inflammation, fluid, or infection in the air sacs of the lung.
  • respiratory alkalosis: a condition involving less carbon dioxide than normal. It is a sign of over-breathing in compensation for lack of elasticity in the lungs.
  • restrictive lung disease: asbestosis is considered a restrictive lung disease. Fibrosis reduces the lung's elasticity, and this "stiff lung" condition reduces all volumes and capacities of the lungs. Vital capacity and total lung volume decrease proportionately, and there is more rapid breathing to compensate for diminished lung capacity.
  • retrosternal: situated or occurring behind the sternum.
  • RV: residual volume. A measure of lung function.
  • sarcoidosis: a chronic disease characterized by the presence of multiple, benign, tumor-like nodules in the lungs and in various other tissues.
  • sarcoma: a malignant tumor of the connective tissue. It spreads by extension or via the bloodstream into neighboring tissue.
  • serous fluid: the clear yellowish fluid which exudes from injured or inflamed tissues.
  • silicosis: a fibrogenic pneumoconiosis caused by inhaling crystalline free silica (quartz) dust and characterized by nodular pulmonary fibrosis.
  • SOB: shortness of breath.
  • spirometer: the instrument that measures the amount of air entering or leaving the lungs.
  • squamous cell: a flat cell of the skin.
  • squamous cell carcinoma: a malignant deterioration of some of the squamous cells of the skin, frequently arising in the larger bronchi and commonly spread by direct extension and lymph node metastasis.
  • subcutaneous: beneath the skin.
  • thoracentesis: the puncturing of the chest wall to obtain fluid for diagnostic study, drain pleural effusions, or to re-expand a collapsed lung.
  • thoracotomy: any surgical incision made into or through the chest wall.
  • TLC: total lung capacity, a measure of lung function.
  • TLV: threshold limit value. A pulmonary function indicator noting the point at which a physiological effect begins to be produced.
  • toxicity: the potential of a drug or agent to poison the system, or to cause adverse effects in addition to therapeutic effect.
  • tumor: an abnormal mass of tissue that is not inflammatory, arises without obvious causes from cells of pre-existent tissue, and possesses no physiologic function. A tumor can be either benign or malignant.
  • URI: upper respiratory infection.
  • vascular: referring to or composed of vessels. It is also used to describe tissue heavily saturated with blood vessels.
  • VC: vital capacity. A pulmonary function value defined as the maximum amount of air that a patient can exhale after taking the deepest possible breath.