A study recently released by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that even though numerous regulations have been passed to limit exposure to asbestos, people are still dying from malignant mesothelioma associated with exposure to the fire retardant material.
Regulations were implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1971 after it was discovered that a popular fire retardant material, asbestos, caused lung disease and cancer if inhaled.
The Environmental Protection Agency also implemented regulations limiting the exposure of those involved in the inspection, destruction, and renovation of structures made with materials containing asbestos. The regulations were meant to limit exposure to the toxic substance and curb asbestos-related deaths.
However, a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that asbestos is still being imported into the United Sates for use in common items such as soap, fertilizers, and alkaline batteries despite production ceasing in the United States in 2002. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in 2015 more than 350 metric tons of asbestos was used in the United States
Asbestos contains microfibers that can be ingested or inhaled. It was included in many building materials such as insulation, tiles, roofing, and paint. Workers run the risk of exposure to the microfibers during building renovations and destruction. Malignant mesothelioma can develop between two to seven decades after exposure to asbestos.
Exposure leading to asbestos-related deaths can occur in one of four ways. First, asbestos miners and manufacturers were exposed many years ago when the material was being used. Then, the tradespeople, like pipefitters and construction workers were exposed when they used asbestos-containing materials during construction. Third, in what is called the third wave of exposure, those who work with structures during renovation or destruction containing the material can inhale the particles. Finally, asbestos lawsuits now claim that those who were exposed to asbestos from the clothing of those who worked around it ended up being diagnosed with mesothelioma in what is called “second-hand asbestos exposure.”
The recent CDC study found that even though workers are exposed to smaller amounts of asbestos under the OSHA and EPA regulations, tens of thousands asbestos-related deaths due to malignant mesothelioma occurred between 1999 and 2015.
The study found an upswing in asbestos-related deaths among those 85 and older and concluded that exposure likely occurred in larger amounts before asbestos was regulated. Although asbestos-related deaths of those 35 to 65 were lower, the study noted that because asbestos-related deaths are still occurring among the young, exposure is still a problem despite the decades-old regulations. Washington and Maine reported the highest number of asbestos-related deaths from malignant mesothelioma from 1999 to 2015, according to the CDC study.
According to the CDC study, the highest concern is those in the construction industry who can be exposed to old building materials containing asbestos. “Twenty percent of air samples collected in the construction industry in 2003 for compliance purposes exceeded the OSHA permissible exposure limit ,” noted the asbestos study.
The asbestos study also found that most of the individuals who died of malignant mesothelioma from 1999 to 2015 were men, and there were 45,221 asbestos-related mesothelioma deaths in the United States during those 16 years.