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Global Impact of Rare Cancer Causing Toxin

Global Impact of Rare Cancer Causing Toxin

Even though the adverse health effects of asbestos are well known it is still used globally

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Even though the adverse health effects of asbestos are well known it is still used globally. Asbestos is still being used in approximately 70 percent of the world.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring microscopic fibrous mineral that is commonly used in building materials due to it’s ability to resist heat, fire, and electricity. Asbestos can be found in wallpaper, cement, floor and ceiling tile, radiators, paneling, piping and shingles. In addition to the building industry, asbestos was and still is an important tool in the automotive field for brakes, clutches, gaskets and other, older car parts that may contain the hazardous material.

Asbestos can be found in wallpaper, cement, floor and ceiling tile, radiators, paneling, piping and shingles

The asbestos becomes harmful once disturbed and the particles become airborne. The particles are then inhaled and embedded in the lining of the organs where mesothelioma develops. There is currently no cure for the disease so awareness and preventing exposure are the best tools to stopping the rising incidence of diagnoses.

The most common form of the disease is pleural mesothelioma which develops in the lining of the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 70 percent of all diagnoses. Mesothelioma symptoms typically do not manifest until 20 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos making an accurate diagnosis extremely difficult. Most patients are not diagnosed until the cancer is in the third or fourth stage. By this later stage prognosis is poor and patients only have 12 to 21 months to live.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos

The fibrous mineral is starting to go out of favor in the developed world as backlash to the health consequences become more pronounced. As the use is tapering in countries like the United States other developing countries are ramping up their production and exportation of the toxin.

Currently North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa are the most common areas where malignant mesothelioma cases are developing. North America has the highest number of cases, followed by Europe. Asia Pacific’s number of cases is growing, with even more expected as the area continues to develop.

Worldwide, around 14,200 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year

Worldwide, around 14,200 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, with incidence rates varying across the world. The highest rates of mesothelioma occur in Australia, Belgium, and Great Britain, with an average of 30 cases per million people. Through 2020, the rate of death for malignant mesothelioma in developed countries is expected to increase by 5 to 10 percent annually.

A huge hurdle in the fight against asbestos is the massive amounts of profits to be made from the toxin. Russia is the world's biggest exporter of asbestos - it has been reported that the country exported 56 percent of the asbestos used globally in 2015. As the biggest supplier of asbestos, it was estimated that Russia’s exports were worth approximately $191 million U.S. dollars in 2015. The total global trade for 2015 was estimated to be $344 million U.S. dollars.

The widespread use of asbestos in developing countries is extremely troubling

The widespread use of asbestos in developing countries is extremely troubling - they are cutting costs now to better compete with the powerhouses. This “edge” in the asbestos trade comes as a severe detriment to their citizens. Approximately 70 percent of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The United States is a large driving force of the global asbestos trade. The last U.S. producer of asbestos closed in 2002 since then the United States has depended on importation to fulfill the nation's use of the toxic material. In 2016, U.S. consumption of asbestos was estimated to be about 340 tons, essentially unchanged from that of 2015.

Currently there are 60 countries around the world that have banned asbestos to varying degrees

The asbestos trade will not be stifled until more bans are put in place - with a global ban on the toxin being the ultimate goal. Currently there are 60 countries around the world that have banned asbestos to varying degrees. Canada, Moldova, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines are all expected to completely ban asbestos by 2020.

Even as areas ban the use of asbestos the particles are still present in existing structures with the potential to expose the public when disturbed during reconstruction. If you or a loved one is believed to have been exposed to asbestos fibers seek medical attention an early diagnosis can be lifesaving. 

More information

Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance



Nota: Las personas que integran ISGlobal persiguen ideas innovadoras con total independencia. Las opiniones expresadas en este blog son, por tanto, a título personal y no necesariamente reflejan el posicionamiento institucional.

Charles Macgregor

Community Engagement Specialist for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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