The asbestos industry has long argued against the idea that exposure to asbestos is as deadly as health proponents say that it is.
Companies that once used asbestos mount aggressive defenses in lawsuits, arguing against plaintiffs who blame exposure to small amounts of mesothelioma for their illness, and claiming that small quantity exposures can’t do the damage that victims claim.
Yet, researchers continue to find that not only does it take very little exposure for life-altering diseases to appear, but the deadly material can continue to have an impact long after an asbestos-related industry has shut down its operations.
In the latest study to prove this, researchers from the University Piemonte Orientale in Novara, Italy focused their attention on an area in Northwest Italy where an asbestos cement plant was once located, but closed down nearly thirty years ago.
The Casale Monferrato region was well known for the high number of cases of mesothelioma that were diagnosed while the plant was operating, but the deadly illness has continued to be diagnosed in many individuals since. The scientists decided to determine whether the risk factor decreases once a contaminating site is shut down, and by how much.
The scientists analyzed information on 200 people who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma and another 348 who were healthy, and examined the odds of them being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Scientists found that those who had been exposed to asbestos had four to 15 times higher chances of being diagnosed, with increased exposure increasing their chances. What was particularly interesting was that this true even for those who had not been exposed to the carcinogen on the job. Simply living nearby was enough to increase the odds of becoming ill to a significant degree.
“Our results also provide indication of risk associated with common sources of environmental exposure and are highly relevant for the evaluation of residual risk after the cessation of asbestos industrial use,” lead study author Daniela Ferrante.
Their research is in keeping with earlier studies that have shown that asbestos remains present for many years after a plant or contaminating source stops its operations. Though it is still not well understood how the asbestos causes the disease, it is known that higher levels of exposure cause greater risk.