Fast Facts and Statistics on Asbestos and Mesothelioma
In-depth research studies examined the effects asbestos had on workers as well as others contaminated by second-hand asbestos exposure. These studies compiled many alarming statistics.
Asbestos is a generic term for a group of 6 silicate minerals having similar but distinct properties. There are two main asbestos classifications — serpentine and amphibole asbestos fibers. Chrysotile, or white asbestos, is the only serpentine fiber.
Statistically, chrysotile held approximately 90-95% of the entire asbestos market share.
The amphibole class was composed of amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite asbestos fibers. Amphibole fibers were more dangerous to human health than the serpentine chrysotile class.
However, exposure to every type of asbestos fiber posed a high risk for humans to develop respiratory diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Overwhelming evidence supports statistics proving the amount of exposure, the exposure duration or time length, and the specific asbestos fiber type had a cumulative effect on the chance a worker developed asbestos-related diseases.
These credible organizations support asbestos research:
- United States Environmental Agency (EPA)
- U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
- U.S. Department of Labor (USDL)
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
- U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH)
- International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC)
- International Labor Organization (ILO)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
It’s important to know there’s no dedicated website or resource for asbestos statistics. Each government organization has credible information scattered throughout their sites.
Non-governmental agencies (NGOs) have excellent statistics as do private resources specializing in asbestos-related diseases. Most published statistics on asbestos are remarkably consistent.
Overall Asbestos Production Statistics
Asbestos naturally occurred on every continent. It was extracted close to the surface with 90% of raw asbestos material coming from open-pit mines. The remaining 10% came from underground mine shafts and tunnels.
Often underground, or hard-rock, mines produced asbestos as a by-product when harvesting other minerals.
Large-quantity asbestos production started in the early 1900s and ran until the 1980s. By then, overwhelming evidence linked asbestos fiber exposure to deadly diseases.
Worldwide asbestos production peaked in 1973 with America alone extracting and processing 804,000 tons.
Over 25 different countries mined asbestos in the 70s and produced a yearly estimate of 4.8 million metric tons of asbestos ore.
Additionally, 85 countries took raw asbestos and manufactured over 3,000 different products with asbestos-containing materials (ACM).
The top asbestos-producing countries during the 20th century were:
- South Africa
- The United States
The U.S. was a much larger importer and consumer of raw asbestos compared to mining it.
Environmental protection and worker safety regulations attacked the product supply chain, causing U.S. demand to drop 95% by 1990. Up to that time, America had the world’s highest demand for ACM products.
In a hundred-year period from 1900 to 2003, Americans mined approximately 3.29 million metric tons of asbestos ore. Conversely, the U.S. imported and processed about 31.5 million metric tons.
Most were chrysotile fibers. That worked to a ratio of 10:1 importing over extracting asbestos from within the nation.
Asbestos Production Statistics Today
Worldwide asbestos demand hasn’t gone away. In fact, asbestos consumption has risen in the developing world where economies like India, China and East-Asian countries haven’t banned asbestos products.
The most recent statistics by the U.S. Geological Survey estimated world raw asbestos production at over 2.5 million metric tons (mt).
Currently, the biggest asbestos producers and quantities are:
- Argentina — 100,000 mt.
- India — 240,000 mt.
- Kazakhstan — 242,000 mt.
- Brazil — 311,000 mt.
- China — 420,000 mt.
- Russia — 1,100,000 mt.
Smaller asbestos producers include Ukraine, Thailand, Iran, Mexico, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Figures indicate lesser countries produce an accumulated 150,000 to 200,000 mt.
Asbestos Health Risk Statistics
American health risk statistics from asbestos exposure appear accurate.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began tracking asbestos-related deaths and illnesses in 1999. Most of these were mesothelioma cases which are only caused by airborne asbestos exposure.
By 2005, the CDC confirmed that 18,068 American citizens died as a direct result of long-term asbestos exposure.
They extrapolated that this awful phenomenon would claim 29,667 more lives from 2005 to 2027 when possible mesothelioma diagnosis might be under control. That’s an average of 1,290 asbestos-related deaths per year in America alone.
Other alarming asbestos health statistics include:
- 27 million American workers had asbestos exposure from 1940 to 1980 when strict controls took place.
- 1.3 million American workers are still exposed to workplace asbestos today.
- There are 2,500 to 3,000 new mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
- 43,073 mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths occurred in America between 1979 and 2001.
- Mesothelioma case numbers will peak between 2016 and 2020 than proportionately fall off.
The reason asbestos-related diseases will reduce in future years is that the number of high-risk exposures fell off after 1980 when controls were in place.
There is also a known latency period of 20-50 years from initial exposure until a mesothelioma diagnosis is made.
Someone exposed to asbestos in 1970 could well wait until 2020 before cancerous tumors advance in their lungs.
Other Asbestos Statistics
The most alarming asbestos statistic is that most mesothelioma patients are diagnosed at stage 3 of the disease when it’s near impossible to treat. No one has survived advanced mesothelioma.
There is progress in multimodal treatment approaches including surgery, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Some statistics involving survival times and victim profiles are:
- 40% of victims live more than 1 year after diagnosis
- 20% survive 2 years
- 10% live for 3 years
- Life expectancies are grim — only 5% make it to 5 years after diagnosis
- Men are 4.6 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than women
- Women survive 3 times longer than men after diagnosis
- Men over 60 are 10 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than 40-year-olds
- At least 30 Americans die each day from asbestos-caused illnesses
- Between 2 and 10% of those exposed to asbestos will develop a related disease
- Between 80 and 90% of asbestos diseases are in the lungs
The amount of asbestos used in the U.S. is unknown.
Statistically, the highest at-risk groups were those who mined asbestos, those who manufactured and installed asbestos products, and those who worked with disturbed asbestos products through maintaining, repairing, or demolishing them.
Statistics put workers on the top-10 list for being at-risk for developing asbestos-related diseases:
- Shipyard workers and on-ship employees
- Welders, foundry, and metalsmiths
- Steel-mill employees
- Construction workers
- Railroad staff
- Automotive technicians
- Oil refinery workers
- Plumbers and pipefitters
- Military personnel
OSHA sets acceptable asbestos exposure standards. Currently, the permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 0.1 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter of air.
That’s rated as 0.1f/cc. Originally, OSHA had a 12.0 f/cc PEL when the first established a baseline in 1971.
They dropped it to 5.0 f/cc in 1972, then to 2.0 f/cc in 1976, and lowered it again in 1986 to 0.2 f/cc before setting at 01 f/cc in 1994.
Historic inspection data reveals some shocking f/cc stats:
- High-risk areas like ship engine rooms had a constant f/cc count at over 100
- Immediate and sudden asbestos exposures like removing car brake drums could be 100,000 f/cc
- Even 1.0 f/cc posed an extreme risk to workers
- 20% of all air at construction sites far exceeded the OSHA PEL
- Almost every work site had areas where asbestos f/cc counts exceeded acceptable levels
Compensation for Mesothelioma Victims
A final asbestos statistic is that many mesothelioma victims have collected large compensation payments from negligent asbestos manufacturers and suppliers.
Compensation is available to pay for medical expenses, lost income, and personal injury damages.
Families can claim on behalf of members with asbestos-related illnesses. They can also file lawsuits in wrongful death cases.