Literature Review 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



The current issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH),1 features two papers of considerable interest. Asbestosis Mortality Surveillance in the United States, 1970-20042 by Ki Moon Bang, Jacek M. Mazurek et al identified 25,413 asbestosis deaths and confirmed trends observed elsewhere which include:

  • Many more male than female deaths (“nearly 35-fold higher”);
  • A high incidence of disease in coastal areas;
  • A high incidence of disease amongst insulation workers, boilermakers and tradesmen involved in ship building and repairing;
  • Groups currently at risk of occupational exposures include people involved with manufacture, use, repair or removal of asbestos-containing materials such as building or friction products, textiles or insulation or demolition of asbestos-containing structures.

The authors conclude that:

“Asbestos has been and continues to be an occupational and environmental hazard of catastrophic proportion. In the U.S., more than 25,000 asbestosis deaths – and many more deaths from other asbestos-related diseases not discussed in this report – have occurred over the 35 years from 1970 to 2004.”

In the paper Mesothelioma Mortality in Brazil, 1980-2003,3 coauthors Francisco Pedra, Anamara Testa Tambellini et al, having acknowledged the range of diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, pointed out that asbestos is still being used in Brazil, predominantly for the manufacture of asbestos-cement products. With no official information on the number of workers being exposed to asbestos in Brazil, it is estimated that “at least 240,000 workers (are) exposed to asbestos in the fiber-cement and brick production industries alone.” The 2,414 mesothelioma fatalities identified:

“underestimate the total mesothelioma deaths in Brazil… (yet) reflect labor and environmental exposures in Brazil, and show an increase in mortality between the years 1980 and 2003. The use of asbestos in Brazil and worldwide is a public health problem of great magnitude. Our report is further evidence for the need for an immediate, global ban on asbestos use.”

The paper Excess of Mesotheliomas after Exposure to Chrysotile in Balangero, Italy by Dario Mirabelli, Roberto Calisti et al was published online on June 4, 2008 on the Occupational and Environmental Medicine website.4 The research documented in this paper is of particular relevance due to previous findings which had been used to “show” that tremolite-free chrysotile had “a low potency for inducing mesothelioma.” The 14 additional cases of malignant mesothelioma found amongst people exposed to Balangero chrysotile are, the authors state, “further evidence to the carcinogenicity of tremolite-free chrysotile.” Concern is also raised “about the risks due to the continuing presence of mine tailings on railroad tracks, road beds and pavings, and perhaps to the incomplete remediation of the mining site.”

Linking Expert Judgement and Trends in Occupational Exposure into a Job-Exposure Matrix for Historical Exposure to Asbestos in The Netherlands5 was published online on June 3, 2008 in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene. Having described the structure and content of an asbestos job-exposure matrix (JEM) developed for The Netherlands, coauthors Paul Swuste, Mohssine Dahhan and Alex Burdorf analyze the validity of the JEM's exposure level estimates for 300+ occupations in 70 industrials sectors.6 During the course of this research, a searchable database was compiled of ~300 asbestos products, commercially distributed in The Netherlands from 1938 onwards, that includes the names of producers and suppliers, the type of product, its asbestos content and trade name.

August 12, 2008



2 Int J Occup Environ Health 2008;14:161-169.

3 Int J Occup Environ Health 2008;14:170-175.



6 See:



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