Asia Accounts For Two-Thirds Of Asbestos Use Worldwide

A new article in Respirology issues a serious warning of massive rises in deaths from asbestos-related lung diseases in Asia.

AsianScientist (Jun. 10, 2011) – A new article in Respirology issues a serious warning of massive rises in deaths from asbestos-related lung diseases in Asia.

Dr. Ken Takahashi, Acting Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Occupational Health, and his team put together important data on asbestos use in 47 Asian countries in this landmark article.

According to the study, Cyprus, Israel, and Japan had the highest age-adjusted mortality rates in Asia. Asian countries accounted for 64 percent of the global consumption of asbestos in the period of 2001-2007, a striking increase from 14 percent between 1920 and 1970.

These worrying figures are the result of unregulated asbestos import and use in many Asian countries.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber commonly used for insulation in constructions. It is relatively affordable, which makes it attractive in developing countries. The WHO identifies asbestos as one of the most dangerous occupational carcinogens, declaring the need to eliminate asbestos use and its associated health damages.

An estimated 107,000 people worldwide die from asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos-related lung diseases, particularly mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis (asbestos-induced lung fibrosis), typically develop after decades of lag time from first exposure. Up until 2007, Asian patients accounted for 13 percent of the cumulative global mortality from asbestos-related pleura-pulmonary diseases.

Takahashi is concerned that the sharp increase in asbestos use in Asia will see a surge of mortality and morbidity from asbestos related diseases in this region in the decades ahead.

He hopes that this article will serve as a stern warning for Asian governments who have yet to ban the use of asbestos. Healthcare providers in Asia must also begin to equip themselves the expertise and resources to manage this “Asian asbestos tsunami,” he said.

The article can be found at: Le et al. (2011) Asbestos use and asbestos-related diseases in Asia: past, present and future.

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Source: Wiley-Blackwell.
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