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CDC report contains tragic data: mesothelioma deaths still rising

On March 3, 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC released a new report: Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality - 1999-2015. Experts had projected that U.S. mesothelioma deaths would begin to decrease after 2005, but instead, the number of people with the deadly cancer has increased, according to the report.

What is mesothelioma?

We recently posted a piece about the two asbestos-caused cancers: mesothelioma and lung cancer, in which we explained that mesothelioma is a rare, but fatal cancer of the thin lining around certain internal organs. The most common is pleural mesothelioma, when it involves the pleura, the lining around the lungs. This makes sense since we know disease results from inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers into the lungs.

The new report

The CDC reports that in this time period, deaths annually from mesothelioma increased 4.8 percent (from 2,479 for 1999 to 2,579 for 2015). The total number of mesothelioma deaths over the time period studied totaled 45,221.

One troubling number is that 682 mesothelioma deaths were reported of people 24 to 44 years old. Mesothelioma normally takes decades to develop and is much more commonly an older person's disease, given that thousands and thousands of people worked in trades in which they were exposed to asbestos throughout the 20th century.

Younger victims may be at risk of secondary exposure from their family members who worked in trades or crafts in which asbestos was present or used and not properly controlled. For example, a parent can bring home asbestos fibers on his or her work clothing or skin, unknowingly exposing loved ones, notes the report.

The future

Despite decades of regulation, especially through the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA for the environment and Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA for the workplace, the report concludes that the numbers suggest that people are still being exposed.

For example, it says that one-fifth of the air samples tested from construction sites in 2003 had levels of asbestos higher than OSHA permits.

The authors advise that regulation of asbestos increase to keep people safer, but this comes at a time of great pressure on federal agencies to just survive, let alone increase their work on behalf of public safety.

Anyone exposed to asbestos or who suffers from an asbestos-related disease should seek medical care from a reputable local pulmonologist and legal advice from an experienced, local, non-advertising attorney as soon as possible.

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