Deaths from asbestos-related diseases will surge in Asia over the next 20 years, a recent study has warned.
Asia now accounts for 64 percent of the world’s asbestos use, according to the study in Respirology, the journal of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology, but for only about 13 percent of the asbestos-related deaths in World Health Organization mortality data.
It takes 30 to 50 years after exposure to develop asbestosis, mesothelioma or a related lung cancer.
Asbestos is a mineral used as fireproofing in construction, and sometimes in cars and ships. In the United States and Europe, most uses have been banned, and workers must wear respirators to keep from inhaling fibers 1,000 times finer than a human hair.
In Asia, asbestos has many uses, from roofing to cement to power plants. Companies in India that make cheap roofing sheets like those pictured above employ 100,000 people, many in badly ventilated factories, according to a recent article in the Indian business press. They import asbestos from Russia and Canada.
India, China and some other large Asian countries do not record asbestos data, so their official death counts are probably artificially low, the study said.
Several countries, including Japan and South Korea, banned the mineral after they saw deaths climb.
Dr Ken Takahashi, the lead author and director of a W.H.O. occupational health group, warned that Asian governments must brace themselves for an “asbestos tsunami.”-By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.