European Respiratory Society


A 62 yr old woman was initially diagnosed with sarcoidosis until a thoracoscopic biopsy revealed the presence of numerous birefringent particles in fibrotic areas of the centrilobular lung zones. These particles were examined by electron microscopy and X-ray spectrometry and characterized as impure talc. Further inquiry into her occupational history revealed that she had worked from the age of 14-18 yrs in a factory making rubber hoses, where she had had an intense exposure to talc. There was no evidence of silicosis or asbestosis, and other significant causes of interstitial lung disease were excluded. This case emphasizes the importance of a thorough occupational history, which may reveal a remote and forgotten exposure to a significant cause of interstitial lung disease. Although this presentation of talcosis is unusual, this case suggests that even a relatively short, but presumably intense exposure to talc more than 40 yrs previously may be a cause of progressive lung fibrosis.