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In a report published recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that mesothelioma mortality rates are still rising, despite increased awareness about the dangers of asbestos and better detection and treatment methods.  The CDC reports that mesothelioma deaths increased from 2,479 in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015.

This new data is in accordance with previous studies that have predicted the rate of mesothelioma deaths will increase through at least 2020.  Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure.  Asbestos is a toxic, naturally occurring mineral that was frequently used across a wide variety of industries until about the 1980’s.  Microscopic asbestos fibers enter the body by inhalation or ingestion.  Once inside the body, the asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and scarring, which leads to the development of cancerous mesothelioma cells.  Mesothelioma can develop 20 to 50 years after exposure.

Since the 1970’s, the Environmental Protection Agency has banned most asbestos-related products and materials in the United States, dramatically reducing the amount of asbestos used nationwide.  However, almost 40 years later, people born after the mineral was banned continue to fall victim to asbestos-related mesothelioma.

According to Dr. Hedy Kindler, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of its mesothelioma program, “The problem with asbestos exposure is, there are really so many places where one can be exposed.  Exposure can occur in many places, with occupational exposure being one of the most common.”

When working in areas where exposure to asbestos is possible, protective equipment is a must.  The US Department of Labor requires employers to provide special equipment and additional training for jobs that have an increased risk of exposure, as well as medical monitoring.

The CDC’s most recent report provides the first major update of nationwide mesothelioma epidemiological data since a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report published in 2014, which only provided data through 2010.  The report’s authors called the number of deaths due to mesothelioma “substantial,” noting a need for continuing to work toward asbestos exposure prevention and regulatory efforts.




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