(PRWEB) February 12, 2013
A new study conducted by South Africa’s National Institute for Occupational Health and the School of Public Health at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg shows an alarming number of cases of mesothelioma and asbestos diseases linked to environmental exposure. South Africa once had several active asbestos mines, all of which are now abandoned because of the threat of mesothelioma to workers. Unfortunately, neglected mines pose a serious environmental threat of their own.
“To stop this asbestos-related disease epidemic, there is a need for the rehabilitation of abandoned asbestos mines and the environment,” write the authors in a recent issue of Global Health Action. Of the 146 claimants of environmental asbestos diseases in South Africa between 2003 and 2010, 77 were malignant mesothelioma. Of these, only 33 received any compensation from the government for their injuries. “This highlights that there is little redress for individuals with environmentally acquired asbestos-related diseases in South Africa,” observe the authors, noting that the issue may not be unique to South Africa since many countries continue to mine and use asbestos.
China is one of those countries where asbestos is taking a toll on its workers. The authors of a new article in Current Opinions in Pulmonary Medicine say China may be paying the price for being the world’s top consumer and producer of chrysotile asbestos. Although the national mortality rate from mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases is unknown, studies conducted on Chinese factory workers and miners show lung cancer rates four times higher than expected. The study reports “surprisingly few” cases of mesothelioma, but the authors note that this may be the result of problems with diagnosing it.
The article, which originated in the School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, urges that “urgent efforts” be made to implement occupational health and safety regulations for Chinese asbestos workers in order to decrease their risk of mesothelioma and other cancers. It also suggests that better diagnostic techniques may be needed to detect more cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases and to get a better idea of their incidence in the country.
Although the members of the European Union have voted to ban the utilization of asbestos as well as asbestos mining and “the manufacture or processing of asbestos products”, many counties outside the EU continue to use it, exposing their workers and citizens to the mesothelioma-causing fibers. The World Health Organization estimates that 90,000 people around the world die each year of mesothelioma as a direct result of asbestos exposure. The U.S. does not have a comprehensive ban on asbestos and has about 2,000 cases of mesothelioma a year.