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  • 1 Commission of the European Communities Joint Research Centre-Ispra Establishment Radiochemistry Division 21020 Ispra, Varese (Italy)
  • 2 Presidio Ospedaliero USSL N. 4 Division of Pneumology Cuasso al Monte Varese (Italy)
  • 3 Ospedale Niguarda Ca' Granda Vergani Medical Division 20100 Milan (italy)
  • 4 Turin University Institute of Occupational Health 10126 Turin (Italy)
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The possibility to use the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) in combination with analytical methods for trace metal analysis such as neutron activation analysis (NAA), inductively coupled plasma (ICP) and electrothermal atomic absorption spectroscopy (ETASS) for the determination of trace elements in the lung of living subjects has been investigated. In particular more than 30 elements have been determined: (1) in physiological solutions used for bronchopulmonary lavage (blank values) (2) in BALs of volunteer patients (unexposed subjects) (3) in BALs of occupational workers affected by pulmonary fibrosis as diagnosed by clinical methods (exposed subjects). Although the number of cases with metal exposure studied by NAA-BAL method is too limited to draw definitive conclusions the results suggest that the procedure can provide interesting qualitative information on metals which would be actually retained in the lung tissue. However, although the method may become of importance when integrated with clinical examinations further investigations are necessary to establish qualitative relations between trace metal levels determined in the BAL and the total elemental content of the lung tissue.