All types of asbestos have been linked to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other serious illnesses. But scientists in Poland recently found the largest number of mesothelioma cases in plants where crocidolite had ever been used.
Crocidolite, or blue asbestos, is not as heat resistant as other types of asbestos, which made it less popular for commercial products like insulation, gaskets and seals. Instead, crocidolite was most often used to make asbestos cement products. These products were used around the world for decades and thousands of workers who helped make them have paid the price by contracting malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
In an effort to better understand the risks, researchers at the Nofera Institute of Occupational Medicine in Lodz, Poland evaluated cases of asbestosis, a potentially fatal lung-scarring illness, and mesothelioma, an aggressive lung-related cancer, among asbestos plant workers between 1970 and 2012. These workers had been employed at 18 large state-owned asbestos processing facilities between 1945 and 1998. The facilities made a wide range of products and processed a total of 2 million tons of asbestos, about 7.5% of which was crocidolite.
During the study period, there were 138 confirmed cases of malignant mesothelioma and 2,106 occurrences of asbestosis. Not surprisingly, total asbestos consumption was closely linked to the development of asbestos-related diseases, especially asbestosis. While mesothelioma cases occurred in workers from several different plants, all of the plants associated with mesothelioma had, at one time, processed crocidolite.
“The observation confirms the relationship between exposure to crocidolite and occurrence of mesothelioma, regardless of the manufactured products,” says lead author Neonila Szeszenia-Dabrowska. In these cases, the authors note that the total volume of asbestos exposure appeared to play less of a role in mesothelioma development than the types of asbestos to which they were exposed.
According to the US Government, crocidolite accounted for only about 4% of the total asbestos used in the US. Even so, about 2,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Most of these patients were exposed to asbestos on the job, often because of inadequate training and protection on the part of their employers.
Szeszenia-Dabrowska, N et al, “Asbestos related diseases among workers of asbestos processing plants in relation to type of production and asbestos use”, May 2015, Medycyna Pracy, pp. 1 – 9
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