Study Shows Asbestos-Death Numbers and Rates at State and County Levels

An advocacy group has nationally mapped asbestos fatality data over a 14-year period.

What do states as diverse as Delaware, Maine, Montana, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia have in common? Unfortunately, they have the highest death rates from asbestos-related causes, a shocking 50 to 100 percent higher than the average nationwide, according to a new study by Asbestos Nation, the national educational and advocacy campaign about the hazards of asbestos from the Environmental Working Group Action Fund.

EWG Action Fund believes based on its research that at least 15,000 Americans die from asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer annually. EWG's study looked closely at asbestos deaths from 1999 to 2013 in order to map numbers and rates at the state and county levels nationwide.

Higher numbers were consistent with geographical areas containing population centers like the states of Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Texas and New York. However, looking at rates instead of numbers told the story of the six states noted above in which asbestos fatalities were disproportionately high considering population concentrations.

Across the country, there were at least 25 individual counties with asbestos-related fatality rates four to 13 times higher than the national average, suggesting that a closer look at the industrial and mining history of those areas, or at the natural occurrence of the mineral there, is warranted.

For example, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the county that contains Pittsburgh, had the highest county yearly average of asbestos-related deaths in the U.S. at 107 for the time period reviewed, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Post-Gazette quotes an Allegheny County health official as noting that the numbers are not surprising considering that it is the "largest industrial area in an industrial state" where decades of workers could have been exposed to asbestos in settings where asbestos was used in insulation, plumbing and construction materials, flame retardant and more.

In addition, the Post-Gazette notes that the study shows pockets of high death rates in the "Northeast shipbuilding regions, mid-Atlantic 'Rust Belt' and around defense industry sites."

Similarly, notes that New Jersey has some of the main asbestos-containing product manufacturers, some of which have been the targets of employee lawsuits. The news organization reviewed New Jersey data from the EWG report and observes that the state is eighth in line for the number of asbestos fatalities, with a statewide asbestos death rate of 7.2 per 100,000 persons, one and one-half times higher than the national rate of 4.9.

Other areas of the country show correspondingly high rates of asbestos fatality in areas of industrial and mining activity. For example, the Minnesota data shows high rates in the northeastern Iron Range, an area historically home to iron mining, as does the Montana data in the Libby area with its history of vermiculite mining.

The Asbestos Nation data provides a wealth of information that deepens our understanding of the national and local impact of asbestos on the health of Americans. Since diseases caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers can take decades to develop in the body, understanding the data requires a historical analysis of what happened in a particular area over the past century.

In the meantime, anyone who has developed an asbestos-related disease, or whose loved one has died from one, should speak with a personal injury attorney who has handled asbestos lawsuits for advice, counsel and representation.

From its offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Portland, the law office of Brayton Purcell, L.L.P., serves clients nationwide who have been harmed by asbestos exposure.