Some Italian workers are paying a high price for Italy’s former position as the top European producer of asbestos.
According to a new study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, both men and women who lived and worked in areas of heavy asbestos production are far more likely than their peers elsewhere in the country to contract peritoneal mesothelioma.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the rarer form of a very rare cancer. While the more common pleural mesothelioma occurs in the membranes around the lungs, peritoneal mesothelioma starts on the membrane that surrounds abdominal organs. Like all forms of mesothelioma, it is asbestos-related, hard to treat, aggressive, and usually lethal.
To get an idea how prevalent peritoneal mesothelioma is in Italy and what role asbestos production might have played in its incidence, scientists from the National Institute of Health, Sapienza University, the Italian National Mesothelioma Register, and other groups evaluated national mesothelioma statistics from 1993 to 2010.They used data from Italy’s National Multiple-Causes-of-Death Database and the Italian Mesothelioma Register.
“We found an increasing trend of age standardized mortality rates in men,” reports Susanna Conti, MSc, of the National Institute of Public Health’s Unit of Statistics. “Moreover, we showed significant risks of death in several northern regions, formerly heavy asbestos users.”
In these Northern regions, asbestos was not only produced and distributed throughout Europe but was also heavily used in concrete, insulation, roof shingles, wallboard and other places.
Italy banned the mining and use of asbestos in 1992 but a 2012 report estimated that as much as 80 percent of the asbestos-containing materials in the country were still in place at that time and “may still be the cause of negative effects to the health of workers and the general population.”
Conti, S, et al, “Peritoneal mesothelioma in Italy: Trends and geography of mortality and incidence”, September 9, 2015, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Epub ahead of print
Silvestir, S, “Managing asbestos in Italy, twenty years after the ban”, 2012, New Solutions, pp. 489-496