Global Epidemic – Dangers in the Dust

In 2009, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists began looking into industry efforts in developing countries to promote the use of asbestos.

During nine months of research, the ICIJ team in partnership with the BBC documented the activities of a global network of industry groups

The investigation cites health experts warnings that widespread asbestos exposures will result in epidemics of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis in the developing world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that 125 million people encounter asbestos in the workplace and the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 100,000 workers die each year from asbestos-related diseases.

The Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factor Study of 2013 (GBD 2013) from the Lancet medical journal, found occupational exposure to asbestos was responsible for 194,000 deaths in 2013. This represents a more than 80% increase from the 100,000 figure given by the International Labour Organization (ILO) The Lancet.

Thousands more are estimated to die from environmental exposures.  Dr. James Leigh, retired director of the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at the Sydney School of Public Health in Australia, has forecast:

…… a total of 5 million to 10 million deaths from asbestos-related cancers by 2030. The estimate is “conservative”

Dr. Leigh states: “If exposures in developing countries lead to epidemics extending further in time, the numbers would be greater.” Dr. Leigh’s calculation does not include deaths from asbestosis or any other asbestos related condition.

A new report by the UN shows more than ever the need to keep asbestos issues to the fore in the minds of the public and politicians:  300 million people a year in Europe are potentially being exposed to asbestos which could lead to almost 15,00 lives per year being lost to asbestos-related disease.

A high-level meeting on environment and health in Europe today appealed urgently to all European countries to eliminate asbestos-related diseases, as a new United Nations report showed that one third of the 900 million people living in the region are potentially exposed to asbestos at work and in the environment

Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe was quoted as saying:

We cannot afford losing almost 15,000 lives a year in Europe, especially workers, from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos

UK firms trading in deadly asbestos – Sunday Times – investigation by Carlos Alba

Last updated February 2020