A recently published study, which investigated the value of measuring exhaled biomarkers from individuals exposed to asbestos, have found a level of detectable symptoms that would not occur in normal subjects.

For those men, and women, who have good cause to suspect they have been fatally exposed to asbestos and fear they may be suffering asbestos-related disease, such as asbestosis or the more aggressive malignant cancer, mesothelioma, this non-invasive diagnostic technique can be a much welcomed alternative to a surgical procedure.

Asbestos exposure can also be responsible for causing less fatal conditions such as pleural plaques, the most common asbestos-induced abnormality, and generally considered benign markers of asbestos exposure. Thus, it may even be thought possible that the resultant diagnoses could be considered when substantiating an asbestosis claim.

The recent development of non-invasive techniques to assess lung disease has shown good results in various studies and some of these techniques involve the measurement of exhaled breath. Every exhaled breath goes through a gaseous phase and a liquid phase that can be collected and measured as exhaled breath condensate (EBC).

In this study of a non-invasive assessment of asbestosis symptoms, researchers measured levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, using an exhaled biomarker, which is raised in patients with lung diseases such as asbestosis, asthma and pulmonary fibrosis. Although the biomarker is non-specific, i.e. it can be found in a number of lung disorders, nonetheless, it is still helpful in assessing asbestos-related conditions.

Complications can often arise with traditional invasive surgical methods of assessing lung inflammation in asbestos-related disorders on affected patients, who are usually elderly, with poor lung function and frequent concurrent disease. Simple yet accurate, non-invasive tests would therefore be of considerable use in diagnosis and possibly also in monitoring progress.

The results clearly confirmed that markers of inflammation and oxidative stress are significantly raised in patients with asbestosis when compared with healthy individuals, but not when compared to patients with pleural diseases. The study concluded with the suggestion that EBC biomarkers may prove useful in the future as non-invasive tools in diagnosing and distinguishing between the different asbestos-related diseases.