Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs where they may remain for a long period of time. Over time, these fibers can accumulate and cause inflammation and scarring. This can affect breathing and lead to a number of serious health conditions. The most serious is mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the thin membranes that line the abdomen and chest.


Classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), asbestos (exposure) can also lead to lung cancer, asbestosis, and pleural effusion. Studies also suggest that exposure to asbestos may lead to gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers, and it may increase the risk of cancers of the throat, kidney, esophagus, and gallbladder.


While the link between asbestos exposure, mesothelioma, and lung diseases such as asbestosis has long been established, the amount of asbestos it takes to be deemed “dangerous” has always been up for debate. Now, a new large study (one of the largest in history) seems to confirm that even small amounts of asbestos can cause cancer.


The study, published by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), included 58,279 subjects aged 55 to 69 years. The subjects—all male, were monitored for 17.3 years.  At the end of the follow-up period, more than 2,600 pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer cases were recorded. The breakdown is as follows:


  • 132 Pleural Mesothelioma Case
  • 166 Laryngeal Cases
  • 2,324 Lung Cancer Cases


According to the study abstract, “the multivariable-adjusted model showed overall positive associations between all levels of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer.” The abstract, published in January of 2014 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)-U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM)-National Institutes of Health (NIH), also revealed that several other conditions, including glottis cancer and lung adenocarcinoma “showed only a positive association after prolonged higher asbestos exposure.”


The study concluded that asbestos levels encountered even at the lower end of the exposure distribution may be associated with an increased risk of pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer.


The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has always maintained that any level of asbestos exposure is dangerous. Although the agency continues its fight for a total ban on asbestos in the U.S., the mineral is still legal and it can be found in more than 3,000 products on the U.S. Market.


Asbestos is still used in cement corrugated sheet, cement flat sheet, clothing, pipeline wrap, roofing felt, vinyl floor tile, cement shingle, millboard, cement pipe, automatic transmission components, clutch facings, friction materials, disk brake pads, drum brake linings, rake blocks, gaskets, non-roofing coatings, and roof coatings.


Just 5 asbestos-containing products have been banned. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the manufacturing, importation, processing and distribution of (1) corrugated paper, (2) rollboard, (3) commercial paper, (4) specialty paper, and (5) flooring felt is prohibited. In addition, asbestos in artificial fireplace embers and wall patching compounds have been banned under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Regulations continue to ban the use of asbestos in products that have not historically contained asbestos, known as “new uses” of asbestos.


Around 55 countries have banned all forms of asbestos. However, with nearly 200 independent countries around the globe, patient advocates, awareness groups, and agencies such as the EPA still have a long way to go.


For more information about asbestos-related disease, request a free copy of 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma. For a free consultation with an experienced mesothelioma attorney, contact the legal team at MRHFM today. MRHFM is the largest firm exclusively devoted to helping mesothelioma victims and their families.




Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM)


National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)-U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM)-National Institutes of Health (NIH)


National Cancer Institute (NCI)


National Geographic


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)


Rand McNally


United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)


World Atlas