Even though asbestos use has declined in the United States, a number of individuals are still dying from exposure to the substance today. Figuring out just what that number is has been difficult.
There has been little done to accurately track the number of deaths caused by asbestos exposure. Between 1999 and 2005, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded an average of 2,500 deaths per year due to malignant mesothelioma, but failed to report on the deaths due to other asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis and lung cancer. The Environmental Working Group suggests that asbestos causes closer to 12,000-15,000 deaths per year in the United States.
Back in 2014, Italian researchers reported that mesothelioma, a cancer whose known cause is exposure to asbestos, is likely to become more common as time went on, suggesting a “global mesothelioma epidemic.” CDC reporting predicted that asbestos-related deaths would peak in 2010, but individuals are still being exposed to asbestos in 2015.
Asbestos is still not banned in the United States, which has resulted in exposure amongst citizens. Recently, children’s crayons and toy fingerprint test kits tested positive for the deadly carcinogen. Given the latency of an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma, it will be years or decades before they know if exposure has affected their health for the worst.
The Environmental Working Group says that their 12,000-15,000 death per year estimate is conservative, based on the fact that “asbestos-related deaths are not precisely recorded or reported by public health authorities.” It will take more attention placed on asbestos for the United States government to fully understand just how deadly this known carcinogen is.