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Recent Versus Past Asbestos Exposure in the Causation of Mesothelioma

1591352_doctor asbestosExposure to asbestos can trigger lethal malignant mesothelioma, regardless of how long ago – or how recently – that exposure happened.

This point, highlighted in a recent issue of the Journal of Occupational Health, could impact compensation for mesothelioma patients around the world.

The Backstory on Asbestos Exposure

Once a popular building material and insulator, asbestos rapidly declined in popularity after it was found to be the primary cause of mesothelioma around the 1960s. Unfortunately, the asbestos bans and regulations that were established in many countries after that came too late for tens of thousands of workers who had already been exposed to the toxin.

But years later, when these workers developed the symptoms of mesothelioma, many began to come up against roadblocks when they tried to seek compensation from the negligent companies responsible for their illnesses.

Companies and their attorneys tried to argue – sometimes successfully – that only a person’s early asbestos exposure had any bearing on mesothelioma development. According to this argument, any exposure after the first few years did not raise the likelihood of eventually receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis.

This argument meant that some mesothelioma patients were denied compensation because those responsible for their earliest asbestos exposure had gone out of business or even died.

All Asbestos Exposure Can Cause Mesothelioma

But a respected international scientific society that focuses on occupational and environmental medicine says the idea that early asbestos exposure is somehow worse is wrong at best and dangerous at worst.

The group, known as the Collegium Ramazzini and named for the man known as the “father of occupational medicine”, maintains that all asbestos exposure can contribute to mesothelioma.

“The Collegium Ramazzini concludes that risk of malignant mesothelioma is related to cumulative exposure to asbestos in which all exposures – early as well as late – contribute to the totality of risk,” states the newly-published article.

The article goes on to say that the group is “deeply concerned that acceptance of this false claim will contribute to the unjust denial of workers’ compensation” and could even “hinder efforts to diagnose and prevent malignant mesothelioma.”

The Bottom Line for Mesothelioma Victims

Multiple published scientific studies now support the idea that mesothelioma is the result of cumulative asbestos exposure, rather than either early or recent exposure.

What this means for mesothelioma victims and their families is that any employer that exposed them to mesothelioma could be held responsible for their illness, regardless of how recently or how long ago the exposure occurred.

It also means that people experiencing the symptoms of mesothelioma should discuss all potential exposures with their doctors, which is critical to making a mesothelioma diagnosis.


Collegium Ramazzini, “Comments on the Causation of Malignant Mesothelioma: REbuttingt he False Concept that Recent Exposures to Asbestos Do Not Contribute to Causation of Mesothelioma”, March 31, 2016, Journal of Occupational Health, Epub ahead of print

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