More Asbestos, More Death
The asbestos lobby continues to promote the myth that asbestos can be used safely under controlled conditions in the face of incontrovertible evidence which shows that exposure to asbestos causes disability and death. Two recent publications by scientists in North America and Asia link historical asbestos consumption to national incidences of asbestosis and mesothelioma and provide further proof, if yet more proof were needed, that asbestos should be banned.
Asbestosis Mortality in the United States: Facts and Predictions, published online on November 18, 2008, calculates that by 2027 more than 55,231 Americans will have died from asbestosis.1 The authors of this paper are in no doubt about the link between asbestos and disease. There is, they write:
a clear association between asbestos consumption and asbestos deaths Asbestos consumption in 1960-1969 was a highly significant positive predictor of mortality in 2000-2004 for all mesothelioma in men, all mesothelioma in women, and asbestosis in men.
The fact that asbestosis deaths are not expected to decrease sharply in the next 10-15 years, leads the authors to warn of an impending national burden on health care, productivity, and the compensation and litigation system. Despite the fact that national usage has fallen dramatically, 2,000 tons were used in 2006. Asbestos products contained within the American infrastructure continue to pose a risk to human health:
1.3 million workers are still exposed to asbestos in the U.S. Much of the current exposure in construction occurs during repair or removal work or in demolition. Asbestos is present in most primary and secondary schools and commercial buildings in the country. It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 commercial products containing asbestos.
The authors of Recent Mortality from Pleural Mesothelioma, Historical Patterns of Asbestos Use, and Adoption of Bans: A Global Assessment 2 confirm the link between national asbestos consumption and disease levels and point out that countries adopting asbestos bans reduced use rates about twice as fast as those not adopting bans. Because there is no safe threshold of exposure to asbestos, the scientists state that any degree of contact wil involve some risk. Given the hazardous nature of asbestos: attempts to reduce exposure without a concurrent reduction in overall use are insufficient to control risk. In other words, countries which are serious about protecting public and occupational health need to adopt comprehensive asbestos bans.
January 3, 2009
1 Antao VC, Pinheiro GA, Wassell JT. Asbestosis Mortality in the United States: Facts and Predictions. Occup. Environ. Med. Published online Nov 18, 2008.
Accessed December 15, 2008, see: http://oem.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/oem.2008.039172v1
2 Nishikawa K, Takahashi K, Karjalainen A, et al. Recent Mortality from Pleural Mesothelioma, Historical Patterns of Asbestos Use, and Adoption of Bans: A Global Assessment,
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol 116, No.12, December 2008, see: