Asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) are responsible for a global pandemic. The cancer component of this pandemic recently peaked in many Western countries and its rate of increase is now in decline. This decline is consequent to the introduction several decades ago both of policy interventions and asbestos bans. However, the pandemic continues to increase today in many emerging economies owing to the lax or total absence of restrictions on asbestos importation and use. It is estimated that the asbestos cancer pandemic currently causes 194 000 premature deaths and the loss of nearly 3.4 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) annually, and accounts for almost two-thirds of the burden of all disease worldwide caused by occupational carcinogens.1 More than 10 million lives will have been lost from asbestos-related cancers alone before asbestos is banned worldwide and exposures end.2 Lin et al have estimated that the total number of asbestos-related deaths (including asbestosis cases) is at least double this number.3 Public health interventions at the highest policy levels are needed if the global pandemic of ARDs is to be curtailed.
Baur, X., Woitowitz, H. J., Budnik, L. T., Egilman, D., Oliver, C., Frank, A., ... Lemen, R. A. (2017). Asbestos, asbestosis, and cancer: The Helsinki criteria for diagnosis and attribution. Critical need for revision of the 2014 update: The Helsinki criteria for diagnosis and attribution. Critical need for revision of the 2014 update. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 60(5), 411-421. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.22709