For those who work in health advocacy, and particularly those who focus on asbestos-related diseases, news of loss and waste as a result of exposure to asbestos is nothing new. But a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) shocked even those who work with bad news every day.
The report, which was published in the June 12, 2013 issue of the American Journal if Industrial Medicine, paints an extremely grim picture for those who are unsure as to whether or not asbestos has had a substantial impact on world health.
It estimates that approximately 141,000 people have lost their lives to asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. Their figures are based on the years between 1994 and 2010.
Calculating out the average age for those who have died in each country (there were 82 countries that reported asbestos-related deaths during those years) and using life expectancies for each of those countries, researchers calculated that the total number of potential life years lost to asbestos totaled almost 3 million years.
The research was a collaborative work by scientists from Indonesia and Japan.
Mesothelioma Steals Years from Victims
Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos, a product that was used extensively in a number of industrial settings throughout the last one hundred years. Though its use has been banned in many countries, it continues to be imported to and exported from many others, and those who have been exposed to the deadly product have died painful deaths.
Mesothelioma generally presents itself decades after asbestos exposure, and once a diagnosis is made little can be done for its victims; they generally die within two years after the illness has been positively identified.
Asbestos-related diseases are particularly painful for its victims because they could have been prevented. Asbestos manufacturers and employers were aware of the risks posed by the product but did nothing to warn those who were exposed of its dangers, opting for profit over prevention.
Seventeen Year Average Loss
The World Health Organization report estimates that the average amount of time that each asbestos victim lost from their life expectancy was seventeen years for mesothelioma patients and thirteen years for asbestosis patients.
The report has been published in hopes that it will have an impact on those countries that continue their asbestos use and convince them to discontinue its use in the interest of safety.