A study of global data on mesothelioma cases reported from 1995-2008 has resulted in the conclusion that on a worldwide scale, one out of every four or five mesothelioma cases go unreported. The study was conducted by professionals at occupational health and safety institutes in Taiwan, Japan, and Birmingham, UK. The entire report was published in the January edition of Environmental Health Perspective, a scholarly journal for environmental and occupational health scientists.

Wide Range of Mesothelioma Data

The authors assembled data on 56 countries for which reliable and somewhat thorough information was available on the use of asbestos for the period 1920 – 1970 and the reports of mesothelioma deaths in those nations over the period 1995-2008. The peak use of asbestos in nations that have since banned it was roughly 1940 – 1965. Since mesothelioma has an average latency period of 40 years, the deaths from that peak period would have occurring in the later period covered by the study. Prior to 1980 the data on mesothelioma deaths is sketchy in many nations because the disease was often misdiagnosed.Incorporated into the study is information on the cumulative use of asbestos in each of those nations and the number of mesothelioma deaths that ensued. Findings were that 174,300 mesothelioma deaths had been reported in the 56 nations. The database on asbestos use further identified 33 nations for which there was information on asbestos usage, but no statistics on mesothelioma deaths. These 89 nations taken together represent 82% of the world’s population. The leading asbestos users over that fifty year span were The United States, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. Usage was defined as the amount of asbestos mined and imported minus the amount exported. The aggregate amount of asbestos estimated for all 89 nations over that period is 65 million metric tons.

Estimates of Mesothelioma Deaths

The researchers then estimated the impact of asbestos on the populations of those 33 nations that had reliable information on asbestos usage but no mesothelioma cancer records. Their estimate is that an additional 38,900 mesothelioma deaths occurred in those nations, leading them to the rough estimate that one in four to five cases of the disease have gone unreported. What is not calculated in this report and can never be known is the number of cases that were misdiagnosed or that have occurred in developing nations where data is nonexistent on both the use of asbestos and its consequences.

Unique Mesothelioma Report by National Institutes of Health

This report, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is the first effort to combine the industrial use of asbestos as recorded by industrial nations and the subsequent cases of mesothelioma. The authors suggest that nations still using asbestos on a widespread basis such as India and China can expect substantial asbestos related health problems in the coming decades.The original report can be found here.

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