An escalation of asbestos-related disease in Europe and Asia has led medical researchers and scientists to consider ways to quantify the current situation, predict future trends and delineate useful protocols for addressing the fall-out from decades of asbestos use. At the beginning of the year (2010), the authors of the paper Clinical study of asbestos-related lung cancer in Japan with special reference to occupational history considered the controversy over criteria for diagnosing asbestos-related lung cancer without asbestosis.1 Since 2005, the number of cases of asbestos-related lung cancer in Japan has drastically increased; in 2004, fewer than 50 such cases were diagnosed whilst in 2006, the figure was more than 1,000. Investigations of 152 patients with asbestos-related lung cancer found that almost all had histories of occupational exposure to asbestos, 34% had symptoms of asbestosis and 81% had pleural plaques.
Clinical investigation of malignant mesothelioma in Japan, which was published online on March 6, 2010, provides details of the first large-scale Japanese study investigating the links between the occurrence of malignant mesothelioma (MM) and asbestos exposure (AE).2 Researchers stated that in 80% of the cases of MM, occupational AE was found: The median duration of AE was 29 years and the median time of latency between AE and development of MM was about 40 years. The authors conclude that there is an urgent need for physicians to acknowledge the association between MM and AE, and to inquire thoroughly regarding AE of the patients with MM.
The paper: Prospective study of asbestos-related diseases incidence cases in primary health care in an area of Barcelona province was published online on April 22, 2010.3 There was a good reason why the researchers decided to focus their investigations on a target population in Barcelona province:
From 1907 until 1997 one of the larger fibrocement plants in Spain operated in the town of Cerdanyola del Valles (in Barcelona province) The workers and the general public of this highly populated area have been exposed to asbestos for a long period, and probably they still are due to continued exposure to environment traces of this material. The identification of increasing numbers of ARD, initially among the (asbestos) fibrocement plant workers but also of other asbestos handling plants, and in the general population in this area of the Barcelona province has alerted our research team. The current real impact of ARD in this area and the characteristics of the affected people remain unknown.
Just a fortnight before this paper appeared, a landmark decision against Spanish asbestos-cement producers was handed down by a Barcelona court. Rocalla S.A and its parent company Uralita were ordered to pay €780,000+ compensation to five former employees who contracted asbestos cancer. Their lawyer believed this verdict supported allegations of corporate negligence. It is likely the judgment will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Decisions are pending in eight other asbestos cases against these defendants with hundreds more likely.4
May 1, 2010
1 Kishimoto T, Gemba K. et al. Clinical study of asbestos-related lung cancer in Japan with special reference to occupational history. January 18, 2010. Cancer Sci 2010.
3 Rosell-Murphy M, Abos-Herrandiz R, et al. Prospective study of asbestos-related diseases incidence cases in primary health care in an area of Barcelona province. BMC Public Health 2010, 10:23.
4 Delgado C. Uralita debera indemnizar a cinco afectados por el amianto. April 9, 2010.