The mortality benefits of restricting the use of asbestos should begin to appear after 2010, when deaths from malignant mesothelioma are expected to peak, according to a report from the CDC.
The number of malignant mesothelioma deaths increased from 2,482 in 1999 to 2,704 in 2005, Ki Moon Bang, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and colleagues reported in the April 24 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
However, annual mortality remained stable at 14 deaths per 1 million in 2005, compared with 14.1 per 1 million in 1999. The rate for the entire study period was 13.8 per 1 million.
“Because mesothelioma manifests 20 to 40 years after first exposure, the number of mesothelioma deaths will likely peak by 2010,” the authors wrote.
Although the health threat posed by asbestos has decreased, it has not disappeared, they emphasized. Asbestos continues to be imported legally for use in certain construction and transportation products.
Moreover, carbon nanotubes used increasingly in manufacturing may share the same carcinogenic potential attributed to asbestos in mesothelioma.
In 1975 the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of asbestos in most types of residential and commercial insulation materials. In 1989 the EPA attempted to implement a total ban on the use of asbestos. The ban was overturned on appeal in federal court in 1991.
Since then, the EPA has taken the position that only certain types of products have been exempted from the ban.
Nonetheless, “an estimated 1.3 million construction and general industry workers potentially are being exposed to asbestos,” the authors wrote.