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Still Deadly After All These Years: Mesothelioma Mortality Rates Increase
You would think that deaths from the toxic mineral asbestos would finally be in decline. After all, asbestos, a mineral prized for its superior insulating and fire retardant properties, high tensile strength and naturally occurring abundance throughout the world, has not been widely available in building products, brake linings or other merchandise for several decades now, due to restrictions because of its cancer-causing properties.
But surprisingly, almost 340 metric tons of raw asbestos fibers were imported into the United States last year; nearly all of which was used in the chemical industry to create chlorine and sodium hydroxide by filtering electrically charged water molecules through asbestos diaphragms. A lesser but substantial quantity of asbestos was also imported to this country in 2016 inside of manufactured products which have not been banned here, such as brake linings and pads, building materials, gaskets, millboard, yarns and thread, among others.
The truth is that deaths from mesothelioma, an always fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, have not been declining as scientists believed they would. For one thing, the number of years between a person’s first exposure to asbestos and his or her diagnosis of mesothelioma cancer, known as a latency period, can extend from ten to 71 years. Given that the majority of people alive today are thought to have been exposed to asbestos before 1980, experts predicted that deaths from mesothelioma would peak at about 3,060 per year in the United States until 2005, after which the number would start to decline. But a decrease in the number of deaths from mesothelioma in this country has not occurred.
Instead, between 1999 and 2015, a whopping 45,221 deaths from malignant mesothelioma were recorded in the United States alone. There were 118 more deaths from mesothelioma in this country in 2015 than there were in 1999. And while the number of people dying from mesothelioma in America who are older than 85 had been expected to rise as the population thought to be most widely exposed to asbestos ages, scientists were surprised to discover that persons younger than 55 are also dying of mesothelioma at alarming rates. Why?
The evidence suggests that workers are still being exposed to asbestos fibers despite a significant decrease in its use industry-wide and regulatory actions restricting its application in the construction and insulating trades. A report, published this month in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), concludes that the “annual number of malignant mesothelioma deaths remains substantial” and points out the need for further restrictions on the importation of asbestos, as well as more careful monitoring during the demolition and remodeling of older buildings which were likely constructed with asbestos-containing materials.
At Baron & Budd, we believe that, together with vigilant compliance of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations during deconstruction and reconstruction of older buildings, an outright ban on all forms of asbestos in the United States will be the only way to stem the tide of innocent lives which continue to be lost each year from exposure to the deadly fiber. We also believe that mesothelioma patients who file lawsuits against the companies that exposed them to carcinogenic asbestos fibers send a clear message to the still-thriving asbestos industry that continued importation and utilization of such a hazardous mineral in the United States is not good for business – or Americans.