14 October 2011

Asbestos Workers Have Threefold Higher Risk of Respiratory Disease, Study Finds:

A new medical study published in Thorax, an international journal of respiratory medicine, underscores the deadly effects of chrysotile asbestos—the predominant type of asbestos used today.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong tracked a group of more than 500 chrysotile asbestos workers from 1972 to 2008 to understand the long-term health effects of exposure to chrysotile asbestos. Inhaling asbestos is associated with serious respiratory diseases including lung cancer, asbestosis, a non-malignant scarring of the lungs and mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen.

The researchers compared the prevalence of respiratory disease among the 577 asbestos workers with the incidence of respiratory disease among a control group of 435 workers who were not exposed to chrysotile asbestos, also known as white asbestos.

The researchers found that the risk of developing lung cancer and respiratory disease was more than three times among the asbestos workers than among the non-exposed workers. They observed that over the 37-year time frame of the study, that 259 of the 577 asbestos workers died and that lung cancer and non-malignant respiratory diseases were major causes of death. 53 asbestos workers died of lung cancer compared to 9 lung cancer deaths among the control group. 81 asbestos workers died of respiratory disease compared to only 11 deaths of respiratory disease among the non-exposed workers.

The researchers said that data from the study provided strong evidence for increased mortality risk associated with exposure to chrysotile asbestos, after adjusting for age differences and smoking.

Chrysotile asbestos is no longer widely used in the United States, but for decades many products contained asbestos. Millions of tons of asbestos used in building materials remains in older houses and commercial buildings. Remodeling of houses and commercial building may disturb asbestos, allowing microscopic asbestos fibers to float in the air where workers can inhale them if they’re not wearing respiratory protection gear. Asbestos exposure is an occupational hazard for workers in building trades including plumbers, electricians, drywall workers, construction workers and demolition workers.

The symptoms of asbestos disease and mesothelioma typically appear 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos.

Source: About Mesothelioma. By Wade Rawlins. 22 September 2011

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