Though it has been well established that exposure to asbestos is responsible for numerous deaths in the U.S., a recent report issued by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund revealed that the national fatality numbers are higher than what was originally thought.
Some areas are much harder hit than others when it comes to asbestos deaths. Allegheny County and the state of Pennsylvania experience much higher death rates than what is reflected in the national average.
This is raising concerns on the part of advocates, particularly in light of actions being considered by Congress that would make it even more difficult for asbestos victims to seek compensation for the damages that they have suffered.
The latest report showed mortality rates that ranged from 20 to 25 percent higher than had previously been provided, and this is likely due to the fact that it is the first study that has used data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study also relied upon a mortality projection formula whose algorithms were developed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The new estimates project between 12,000 and 15,000 asbestos-related deaths in the United States each year, where previous estimates hovered around 10,000.
Between the years 1999 and 2013, 14,216 people in Pennsylvania died from asbestos-related diseases, placing the Keystone state with five other states noted for asbestos mortality rates that are 50 to 100 percent higher than the average for the rest of the country.
Allegheny County reported 107 deaths during that time, giving it the dubious distinction of having the highest asbestos death rate of any county in the state. Another 28 of the state’s counties have asbestos death rates that range from four to thirteen times the national average.
“The death rates are high in areas of the country where people were exposed in industries that used asbestos. That includes Montana, where it was mined; in Utah, where it’s naturally occurring in rocks; in shipyards, ship-building ports, the building trades and the steel industry,” Sonya Lunder, senior analyst for Environmental Working Group, said.
Says Luann Brink, an epidemiologist with the Allegheny County Health Department, said that since “we [Allegheny County] are the largest industrial area in an industrial state,” the death rates shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Though exposure today may be more limited, this does nothing to help those who were already exposed years ago.
There is tremendous concern that the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, which is being considered by Congress, will cause tremendous hardship for those who have yet to be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases.