Looking Overseas for Answers

container ship in the water

The worldwide battle against mesothelioma has made significant progress. Countless countries have banned the substance outright. Although the United States still imports the dangerous fibers, manufacturing is a thing of the past. Innovations in medicine and treatments have helped to lengthen lives with researchers working tirelessly to find the elusive cure.

In searching for the greatest risk of mesothelioma, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine looked overseas.

Bari, Italy, had an asbestos cement plant in operation from 1933 to 1985. Once a place that provided local jobs, the contaminated site is now classified as a “national concern.” A study by the Italian Workers’ Compensation Authority revealed troubling news.

Researchers analyzed the health history of the 417 plant workers, uncovering a number of employees dying from mesothelioma – both pleural and peritoneal – and lung cancer. In addition, they reviewed the length of time they were exposed to asbestos, the time that passed post-exposure, and specific cancers that resulted in their deaths.

They found that while fatalities generally decreased over several years, the risk of pleural mesothelioma remains the same, regardless of the time that passes. Deaths from that form of cancer grew and then declined as exposure increased.

Peritoneal mesothelioma (representing a fifth of mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States) and lung cancer risks peaked at 20 years post-exposure and remained steady without going down. Fatalities for both diseases increased with higher exposure.

Without a clear consensus, the statistics for this deadly disease is as confounding as finding a cure.