Asbestos exposure cost Americans more than 427,000 years of potential life in the first decade of the new millennium. That figure comes from a study on mesothelioma and asbestosis – the two most deadly asbestos-related diseases – conducted by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Using National Center for Health Statistics mortality data, NIOSH researchers evaluated premature deaths and “loss of potentially productive years of life” attributable to either asbestosis or mesothelioma between 1999 and 2010. The data included only people 25 years or older with an underlying cause of death listed on their death certificate of either asbestosis or malignant mesothelioma.
When the figures were calculated using the normal life expectancy for each asbestosis victim who died early, researchers came up with a total of 56,907 potential life years lost. When the life expectancy was capped at 65, the figure dropped to 2,167 potential lost years to asbestosis. For mesothelioma, when the figures were calculated according to normal life expectancy, the life years lost totaled 370,098. The number dropped to 53,017 potential life years loss when life expectancy was capped at 65.
Despite advances in mesothelioma and asbestosis diagnosis and treatment, the study found no significant changes in the number of life years lost to asbestos diseases from 1999 to 2010. The researchers concluded that the “continuing occurrence of asbestos-associated diseases and their substantial premature mortality burden” support the need for ongoing monitoring and surveillance of trends in these illnesses.
Both mesothelioma and asbestosis are directly attributable to asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral that was used in a wide variety of building and insulation products for decades. Although the U.S. has instituted strict guidelines on the use and handling of asbestos, it has failed to enact a comprehensive ban on the substance. An estimated 2,500 Americans continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
Bang, KM, et al, “Diseases attributable to asbestos exposure: Years of potential life lost, United States, 1999-2010”, September 20, 2013, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Epub ahead of prin