Dust, Asbestos, and Sludge Exposure: What Kinds of Respiratory Injuries Are Caused by Disaster-Induced Dust, Asbestos, and Sludge Exposure?

  • Shinya OhkouchiEmail author
  • Shinsuke Yamanda
  • Shu Hisata
  • Masao Tabata
  • Toshiya Irokawa
  • Hiromasa Ogawa
  • Hajime Kurosawa
Part of the Respiratory Disease Series: Diagnostic Tools and Disease Managements book series (RDSDTDM)


In past disasters, marked increases in the frequencies of common respiratory diseases, such as community-acquired pneumonia, and the exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchial asthma were observed. The temporary deterioration of the health status of the general public due to problems with infrastructure and health management systems was probably responsible for these increases. On the other hand, no significant increases in the incidence rates of conditions caused by damage to the peripheral respiratory system or asbestosis have been reported in large populations that experienced disasters.

The reason for this is unclear; however, the following hypothesis is reasonable: (1) The chemical and physiological characteristics, size, and density of inhaled particles have a significant influence on the incidence rates of respiratory conditions. (2) Most inhaled dust becomes caught in the upper respiratory tract; therefore, damage to the peripheral respiratory tract is uncommon.

Thus, pulmonary injuries tend to affect the health of rescue team members, construction workers, and volunteers, who handle large amounts of dust and/or sludge. Pulmonary injuries often result in serious and/or fatal outcomes. Therefore, suitable protective regulations are required, even under the confusing situations found after disasters. Accordingly, it will be necessary to establish standard methods for the use of respiratory protective equipment and the evaluation of the risk of respiratory conditions in disaster zones. In addition, it might be possible to predict the risk of malignant mesothelioma (including due to asbestosis) after disasters that cause buildings to collapse. Careful longitudinal observation is needed for the early diagnosis of mesothelioma.

In this section, we introduce the conditions in which peripheral pulmonary damage can occur and some case reports involving pulmonary injuries. In addition, we discuss ways in which lung damage can be avoided in future disasters.


Respiratory injuries Asbestosis Disaster Protection Great East Japan Earthquake 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shinya Ohkouchi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shinsuke Yamanda
    • 2
  • Shu Hisata
    • 3
  • Masao Tabata
    • 1
  • Toshiya Irokawa
    • 1
  • Hiromasa Ogawa
    • 1
  • Hajime Kurosawa
    • 1
  1. 1.Occupational Health and Respiratory Medicine, Graduate School of MedicineTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  2. 2.Department of Respiratory MedicineSendai Kousei HospitalSendaiJapan
  3. 3.Respiratory MedicineJichi Medical UniversityShimotsukeJapan

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