September 25th, 2017 by Charlie Blackburn | NAACCReview Home Leave a comment

Sarah Wallace, Health Advocate,
Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center


September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day – a day dedicated to spread information on the rarity of the disease, as well as its cause, asbestos. Asbestos exposure counts for nearly 80% of all cases of mesothelioma. While legality varies throughout the world on asbestos, its lasting health impact has been well-known and documented throughout the medical community.

Although legislations throughout the world have regulated or outright banned asbestos, the lasting effects of the former wonder mineral still plague society on a global scale. 55 countries globally have outlawed the usage and importation of the deadly substance; however, many large international players, including the United States, still do not have a ban on asbestos. The biggest threat asbestos poses is the manifestation of mesothelioma, a hyper-aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the organs. With only 10,000 annual cases diagnosed globally, mesothelioma remains a rare killer.

Incidence in North America

Due to the heavy usage of asbestos during periods of industrialization, wartime and building, laborers, veterans and tradesmen have, historically, been the most affected demographic for asbestos-related illness. While male diagnoses still account for the vast majority of mesothelioma cases, female incidence rates have been climbing steadily since the early 1990s. Between 2000-2014, there were 12,045 male diagnoses and only 3,808 female diagnoses – these figures include all races. However, when races are divided, white males account for 11,222 – around 93% of all male cases. White females accounted for 3,476 cases, or 91% of all North American incidences of mesothelioma. While Canada is set on a total ban of asbestos by 2018, both import and usage, the United States and the Environmental Protection Agency are still in the process of evaluating its effects and risk on public health.

International Mesothelioma Rates 

While the majority of Europe has banned asbestos outright, new cases do emerge every year. Great Britain remains the epicenter of mesothelioma incidence in Europe, as the country accounts for highest age-adjusted mortality rate in the world, at 18.36 per million people. Australia ranks as the second highest worldwide, with an incidence rate of of 16.7 per million people. While both nations have made it illegal to import or use asbestos, incidences of mesothelioma still climb. Asia accounts for the most rampant current asbestos usage in the world, with China leading the way at 570,000 tons used per year. Although Asian countries such as China, Indonesia, India and Vietnam utilize the material, statistics related to mesothelioma and asbestos-related illness are not readily available. In some preliminary studies, however, China’s incidence rate for malignant mesothelioma is 1.5 per million – substantially low for its usage for industrial purposes.

The Effects of Asbestos Bans

The move to federally ban asbestos is a relatively recent development, with the Scandinavian countries starting the trend in the early 1980s. Thus, conclusive data regarding the decline of mesothelioma in banned countries is not universally known. However, there have been several studies suggesting rates of asbestos-related cancer seem to be in decline in countries that have outlawed the substance. A collaborative study at Umeå University resulted in the conclusion that workers starting their careers in Sweden, either during or after the ban, have a decreased risk of mesothelioma. Furthermore, the study has shown that the ban has resulted in roughly 12 avoided mesothelioma cases per year. Although the study is restricted only to findings in Sweden, similar results are expected to occur in countries after the ban of asbestos.

What’s the Risk?

Mesothelioma, traditionally, was a disease that affected working males – laborers who worked with asbestos on a day-to-day bases. However, more cases are being diagnosed in a multitude of demographics; men and women of all racial backgrounds are susceptible. In America, homes and buildings constructed prior to 1980 run the risk of housing the deadly material, as it was used extensively in insulation, piping and other home applications. If you suspect your home may contain asbestos, seek out a licensed professional for abatement and removal strategy. OSHA has declared that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and awareness of potential hazards to health is paramount.

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