14 October 2011

New Wave of Mesothelioma Seen, Australian Researchers Say

Remodeling and demolition work is one of the most common ways that workers are exposed to asbestos today. An increasing number of cases of malignant mesothelioma, a cancer caused by inhaling asbestos, involve home remodeling because of the widespread use of asbestos building materials, Australian researchers say.

The trend is pronounced enough that Australian researchers characterize the cases of mesothelioma related to home renovation and maintenance as a third wave of asbestos-related disease. Do-it-yourself home renovators are especially at risk of exposure to  asbestos in the home because they are less likely to take precautions to prevent inhaling asbestos fibers. The  fibers lodge in the lung and may eventually cause disease


In a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers at the University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health examined the cases of 1,631 people (1408 men and 223 women) diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in Western Australia from 1960 to 2008.  The researchers found that since 1981, there had been 87 cases of mesothelioma among people who renovated their own homes and family members who were in the vicinity of the renovations. Of the 87 cases, 84 people developed pleural mesothelioma, cancer of the lining of the lung, and three people were diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the abdomen.

According to the researchers, the proportion of cases of mesothelioma due to home renovations went up steadily starting in the 1980s from 3 percent among men initially to nearly 8 percent between 2005 and 2008. Among women, the cases of mesothelioma related to home renovation soared from 5 percent in the 1990s to more than 35 percent between 2005 and 2008.

After World War II, asbestos cement products such as fibro sheeting, roofing shingles, water and drainage pipes were commonly used as a building material in Australia and the United States. By the mid-1950s, Austrailia ranked fourth among western nations after the United States, Great Britain and France in use of asbestos products.

The first wave of mesothelioma cases involved people involved in mining and milling raw asbestos and manufacturing asbestos productions. Workers who used asbestos in industry accounted for the second wave of cases. The researchers says that home renovators may represent a new third wave of asbestos-related disease.

The widespread use of asbestos was phased out in Australia and the U.S. starting in the 1970s. But asbestos materials remain in millions of homes in both countries and when the homes undergo renovations, asbestos fibers may be released into the air. The Australian researchers predict that there is likely to be a further increase in cases of malignant mesothelioma attributable to home renovations given the large amount of asbestos remaining in older houses.

Source: About Mesothelioma. 6 September 2011

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