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Are Mesothelioma Deaths on the Rise?

Are mesothelioma deaths in the rise? According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the answer is yes. This is despite regulatory actions and a significant decline in asbestos use. The CDC has reported that from 1999-2015, a total of 45,221 deaths resulting from malignant mesothelioma was reported in the U.S., increasing from 2,479 deaths in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015. This represents a near 5% increase from 1999 to 2015.

Though the largest number of deaths occurred among those who worked with asbestos when it was at its peak, so people ages 75-84 (16,914), 65-74 (12,985), and 85-plus (6,476), CDC data included an alarming 682 deaths among those aged 25-44, more than 1,900 among those aged 45-54, and over 6,200 among those aged 55-64.

The CDC report concluded that the annual number of malignant mesothelioma deaths remains “substantial” and is “increasing, particularly among persons aged 85 years or older, most likely representing exposure many years ago.” And although malignant mesothelioma deaths decreased in persons aged 35–64 years, “the continuing occurrence of mesothelioma deaths among persons aged 55 and older, suggests ongoing occupational and environmental exposures to asbestos fibers, despite regulatory actions by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed at limiting asbestos exposure.”

Though asbestos is regulated, a total ban does not exist. And though the permissible exposure limit is 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc), down from 12 f/cc in 1971, per the OSHA, there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber. 

 

Sources

Adler, Cara, Andre Sofair, MD, MPH, and William E. Chavey, MD, MS. "Rise in Mesothelioma Deaths." NEJM Journal Watch. NEJM Group, a Division of the Massachusetts Medical Society, 03 Mar. 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.

"Asbestos Laws and Regulations." EPA.gov. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 01 Sept. 2016. Web. 18 May 2017.

"Asbestos." Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 18 May 2017.

Mazurek, Jacek M., Girija Syamlal, John M. Wood, Scott A. Hendricks, and Ainsley Weston. "Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality — United States, 1999–2015." MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 66.8 (2017): 214-18. CDC.gov. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 03 Mar. 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.