The results of a study of nearly 99,000 men and women working in occupations involving asbestos suggests exposure to the deadly material has also strong links to an increased risk of heart disease.
Throughout the course of the twentieth century, increasing asbestos awareness to the fatal health risks, which has left a continuing legacy of asbestosis diseases and the fatal, incurable mesothelioma cancer, are established and well-documented.
Research conducted in the UK by the Health and Safety Laboratory looked at predominantly male workers employed in asbestos disposal and female workers exposed to asbestos in manufacturing industries between 1971 and 2005.
It's not often realised that the widespread use of blue and brown asbestos was not banned in the UK until the mid 1980s leaving white asbestos fibres to be continued to be used in the production of inexpensive insulation for many different industries such as construction, ship building, engineering and automotive. An import ban was introduced in 1999 and a total ban on asbestos use was not actually enforced until 2005.
It is well-known that there can be an exceptionally long gestation period of 15 to 50 years from the first asbestos exposure and the inhalation of fibres until the appearance of asbestosis symptoms. The fibres embed in the linings of the lungs causing inflammation and according to the study findings, researchers suggest "...there is evidence that inflammatory processes are involved in the development of cardiovascular disease."
It was further revealed that the risk of heart disease was even more dangerous for women than for men exposed to asbestos when compared with the general population. The probability of dying from a stroke was 63 per cent in males compared to 100 per cent in females who are also more likely to die from heart disease by 89 per cent contrasting with 63 per cent for males.
Over the entire research period, there were 15,557 deaths analysed from all causes in the study group of workers and it was also concluded that "occupational exposure to asbestos was associated with cardiovascular disease mortality".
Currently, most common mesothelioma cancers are pleural ( lungs) followed by peritoneal ( stomach) and the rarer pericardial (heart) and testicular form. In recent years, however, an increasing number of medical research professionals have also begun linking asbestos exposure to a wider variety of cancers, including colon, kidney, and gastrointestinal.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) claim more than 1.8 million people in the UK are annually exposed to asbestos with at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed every year. In 2008, death from mesothelioma reached 2,249, a rise of three per cent on 2007. It is forecast that 5,000 people will die from asbestos exposure each year by 2015 and a further 45,000 mesothelioma deaths can be expected by 2050.
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