The Continuing Legacy of Asbestos

In 1992, Italy banned asbestos after being one of the primary producers and consumers throughout Europe. The decision came nine years after Iceland began the trend by becoming the first country to ban the mining use and commercialization of the deadly mineral.

Yet, nearly 30 years later, after joining what is now 60 countries, the spread of the cancer is at its highest levels. Specific findings include:

  • Approximately 29,000 deaths from 1970 to 2014
  • Fatalities have increased to a peak just short of 6,000 from 2000 to 2014
  • More than 26,000 deaths could occur between 2015 to 2039

Despite advances in medical treatment for the disease, prohibitions have not slowed diagnoses in the country, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The World Health Organization claims that more than 100,000 lives are lost every year because of exposure to the once widely used product thought to be the “wave of the future.” It was versatile, strong, and heat resistant.

Unbeknownst to any workers at the time, but well known by industry, inhaling and ingesting asbestos would eventually impact the health and shorten the lives of those exposed to the mineral. When factoring in the latency period, symptoms and subsequent diagnoses would not occur for several decades.

Simply put, actions to stop manufacturing and use came far too late to stem the current spread of the catastrophic illness.

The study focused specifically on the connection between the ban and mesothelioma-related deaths. Any benefits of the prohibition are non-existent over what is considered “legacy asbestos,” defined as what still remains in existing homes and commercial buildings constructed in the last century.

Inevitably, the bans will see gradual declines in mesothelioma diagnoses until a long-elusive cure is found.