The International Commission of Occupational Health (ICOH) has published a stunning report revealing that the number of deaths attributed to asbestos exposure in both the U.S. and around the world was more than double what initially estimated.
It has been well established that asbestos exposure leads to a variety of serious and fatal illnesses. Though the deadliest of these is malignant mesothelioma, the rare form of cancer that is considered life-threatening, asbestos exposure has also been blamed for deaths from lung cancer, ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer, asbestosis, and other conditions.
The report gave the number of occupational asbestos-related deaths in the United States as 39,275 and around the world as 222,321. This is more than twice the previously accepted numbers, which had been based on estimated figures provided by nongovernmental and governmental health agencies domestically and internationally.
Report Breaks Down Asbestos Exposure Deaths by Disease
The ICOH report was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and the asbestos exposure deaths reported were broken down by disease as follows:
U.S. Asbestos Exposure Deaths:
- Mesothelioma: 3,161
- Lung Cancer: 34,270
- Ovarian Cancer: 787
- Laryngeal Cancer: 443
- Asbestosis: 613
International Asbestos Exposure Deaths:
- Mesothelioma: 27,612
- Lung Cancer: 181,450
- Ovarian Cancer: 6,022
- Larynx Cancer: 3,743
- Asbestosis: 3,495
In reviewing the report, experts have expressed concern that even these numbers likely fall short of the actual number of people dying of asbestos exposure. This is due in large part to the challenges of diagnosing malignant mesothelioma, as well as the difficulty in correctly attributing the cause of other cancers to asbestos exposure.
Though it is widely known that exposure to the toxin causes mesothelioma, its role in lung cancer is not as well understood, and most physicians are likely to identify smoking as the cause of the malignancy. As the head of the ICOH was quick to point out, asbestos causes six times more cases of lung cancer than of mesothelioma.