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Research Outline      2015-03-16 16:16:15


Dr. Yang's current research focuses on the hazardous material asbestos, an important topic in public health. Asbestos is a well-known carcinogen, and many questions remain about this substance.

        The first question is "What is asbestos?" In the past, asbestos was generally known to comprise a group of minerals that, when crushed, break into fibers rather than dust. However, many asbestos minerals exist in compacted masses and are recognized as non-asbestiform asbestos. Non-asbestiform asbestos is common in the construction, stone and jewelry industries; NIOSH emphasizes that the hazards of non-asbestiform asbestos are inconclusively known and has called for further study to elucidate their health effects. Dr. Yang's first investigation provided detailed analyses of bulk samples describing the dimensional and chemical contents of particles generated from non-asbestos minerals. Based on the results, Dr. Yang conducted the first epi­demiologic study to evaluate the occupational health effects of processing non-asbestiform asbestos. Dr. Yang found that processing non-asbestiform tremolite increases the risk of pulmonary fibrosis and that the dimensional properties of tremolite particles may be crucial for this health effect. The results of this study were published in a highly ranked journal, Epidemiology 2013;24(1):143-9.

        The second question is "Is non-asbestiform asbestos carcinogenic?" Dr. Yang followed the mortality due to lung cancer in a historical cohort that had processed non-asbestiform asbestos and conducted air sampling in their workplaces. The results demonstrated that the destruction of non-asbestiform asbestos releases asbestiform particles; additionally, exposure to non-asbestiform asbestos may increase the risk of lung cancer. The findings were published in Occup Environ Med 2013;70(12):852-7.

        The third question is "How can we diagnose asbestos-related disease?" The diagnosis of asbestos-induced disease is extremely difficult, and obstacles to early screening remain unresolved in Taiwan. It is estimated that the number of deaths due to asbestos-related malignancies will peak in approximately 2020; however, cases of asbestos-related diseases, although rare, are under-reported in Taiwan. Dr. Yang's ongoing research aims to solve the abovementioned problems. Dr. Yang enthusiastically joined the national scientific community in this field. In 2009, using grant support from the National Science Council and Interchange Association Japan (IAJ), Dr. Yang visited Professor Ken Takahashi's asbestos laboratory at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health to learn about their experiences in Japan. With the recommendation of Prof. Yukinori Kusaka, the chair of the ICOH Scientific Committee of Respiratory Disease, Dr. Yang attended a series of training programs and have been qualified as an Asian Intensive Reader of Pneumoconiosis for the ILO 2000 International Classification of Radiographs of Pneumoconiosis. Additionally, Dr. Yang contributes to the implementation of the ILO/WHO Global Program for the Elimination of Silicosis. The development of a new screening method for asbestos induced lung diseases is warranted to improve low diagnosis rates. Dr. Yang's current research explores the metabolites of occupational lung diseases. The findings will be used to identify early pathologic changes in workers who have been exposed to silica or asbestos, which currently cannot be recognized due to limitations in current screening methods largely based on chest X-rays or pulmonary function tests.



In the past, Dr. Yang's research focused on occupational hazards experienced by Chinese herbalists. Based on serial cohort studies, Dr. Yang demonstrated that the use of aristolochic acid-containing herbs increased the incidence of and risk of mortality due to urological cancer and renal failure in Chinese herbalists. These findings convinced the Taiwanese government to place a ban on aristolochic acid-containing herbs.