39,000 Deaths Caused Every Year by Asbestos, Rivaling Breast Cancer and Traffic Fatalities

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepares to release information on how it will assess the dangers of hazardous substances such as asbestos, new research has revealed that fatalities from asbestos-related diseases are much higher than previous estimates. This latest study more than doubles the previous number of mortalities, from 15,000 to over 39,000 every year.

Over 55 nations have taken measures to ban the sale and import of asbestos and products that contain asbestos, yet the United states isn’t among them. Given these findings about asbestos-related diseases, it is even more crucial that the EPA use its power to enact a total asbestos ban.

Sobering Statistics

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) has long been advocating for an asbestos ban and promoting the most current research. The latest data released was collected by Jukka Takala, the President of the International Commission of Occupational Health (ICOH). These figures for asbestos-related deaths reveal previous estimates to have grossly underreported the toll asbestos takes on human life, particularly from asbestos-related cancer.

Takala’s statistics for yearly deaths included 34,270 fatalities from lung cancer, 3,161 from mesothelioma, 787 from ovarian cancer, 443 from larynx cancer, and 613 from chronic asbestosis. The previous mortality estimates, which came from U.S. government sources, estimated only 15,000 deaths per year.

Following the public announcement of these findings, Linda Reinstein, President and Co-Founder of ADAO, noted that the EPA is due to make its own ruling on asbestos soon. She stated, “The EPA’s imminent release of its final formulation document will define how the agency evaluates the risk of asbestos as part of the Toxic Substances Control Act.”

Reinstein further emphasized how Takala’s research made the dangers of asbestos even more evident, solidifying the case for a ban. The EPA would be able to enact such measures easily, as Reinstein suggested, “The nation’s new toxics law gives the Environmental Protection Agency the power to completely ban the notorious killer, but the chemical industry is pushing for continued exemptions for some uses.”

During recent years, the ADAO has brought to light how asbestos has been found in consumer products, such as cosmetics and toys, that were made with talc tainted with asbestos. Reinstein has also faulted EPA for not closely regulating asbestos in the past, or requiring a thorough examination of a type of asbestos that is found in 30 million homes in insulating material.

As Reinstein argues, lobbying efforts on behalf of the chemical industry have stalled or stopped asbestos bans over the past several decades. While the industry covered up evidence of the dangers of asbestos for years, they are currently trying to stop a ban since asbestos is still used to make sodium chloride and chlorine. But we cannot risk the health of American citizens due to big business interests that would continue to put profits before people.

Many Fatalities, Little Media Attention

One of the most disturbing aspects of these new mortality statistics is how many other health risks and concerns cause 40,000 deaths every year, yet receive much more media attention than asbestos. According to recent figures, 40,000 Americans die every year in traffic and auto accidents. Also, the epidemic of opioId abuse in America is causing 37,000 deaths yearly, raising calls for additional treatment and rehabilitation programs.

Breast cancer kills 40,000 women every year, and is the focus of fundraisers nationwide in the search for a cure. More people are killed by asbestos every year than are killed by firearms, which take 30,000 lives annually and have been another subject of intense debate and scrutiny.

When we examine the statistics, the message is clear: asbestos is one of our most dangerous killers, and we need to treat it as such.

Fighting for an Asbestos-Free Future

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes there is no safe exposure to asbestos. Even very low levels of exposure can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. This is why an outright ban is the only answer to preventing asbestos-related diseases.

Now that it has the power to ban asbestos through the TSCA, the EPA must end this decades-long fight, resist the pressure from big business, and protect the health and safety of American citizens for years to come. It’s time to put people before profits and decrease the yearly death toll. It’s time to ban asbestos.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

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Last modified: July 17, 2022