Ferromagnetic Contamination in the Lungs and Other Organs of the Human Body

Science  18 May 1973:
Vol. 180, Issue 4087, pp. 745-748
DOI: 10.1126/science.180.4087.745


Contaminating particles which are ferromagnetic have been found in the human body. Their distribution was measured by applying an external magnetic field to the torso for a short time, and then, in a shielded room, mapping the steady magnetic field around the torso due to the magnetized particles. Maps of subjects show various distributions, including particles in the stomach from food cans and in the lungs from are welding. The fields from these two sources are strong enough to be detected with a flux-gate magnetometer, without the need for a shielded room. This simplicity of detection of larger amounts of ferromagnetic contamination suggests that this method may be used in two applications: in detecting the presence of large amounts of asbestos (ferromagnetic and harmful) in the lungs of asbestos workers, and in tests of the condition of the lung where FE3O4 dust (ferromagnetic and harmless) would be used as an inhaled tracer material.