Workers around the world are still at risk for asbestos exposure, finds a study conducted by a team of researchers from Brazil.
This is concerning because asbestos is very toxic to humans. It can cause mesothelioma and other related diseases in people who inhale or ingest the small fibers. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that can take decades to appear after a person is exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos has been used since ancient times. It is fire-proof, nearly impossible to corrode, and can be woven into other materials. In modern times, asbestos is often used in manufacturing and construction.
Because it is so toxic, many countries around the world have banned the use of asbestos. But there are still other countries that allow asbestos to be used in places where it can make people sick.
Jobs and Workers at Risk
The researchers in this study wanted to find out what types of jobs and activities could cause people to get sick with asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.
They looked at data from 23 studies from 2015 to 2020. The data came from many countries, including Italy, the United States, South Korea, China, France, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Japan, and Spain.
They found that the jobs with the most illness were asbestos workers, miners, and textile workers. Other jobs that could cause sickness included naval, automotive, carpentry, doll-making, construction, and upholstery workers.
Even workers who helped with rescue, recovery, and restoration activities for the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks could get sick from asbestos.
The most common sickness from asbestos was malignant mesothelioma. Other asbestos-related diseases were lung cancer and respiratory diseases.
The studies that the researchers looked at stress the importance of telling workers who are exposed to asbestos about how dangerous it can be for their health. Governments and employers can take steps to create safer work conditions and support better health surveillance.
Vicari K, Ribeiro IM, Aguiar BF, Brey C, Boller S, Miranda FMD. Occupational characterization of workers exposed to asbestos: an integrative review. Rev Bras Med Trab. 2023;20(4):650-658. Published 2023 Feb 13. doi:10.47626/1679-4435-2022-733. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10124803/