Asbestos-related disease still cuts short too many lives and deprives Americans of hundreds of thousands of productive years of potential living, according to startling new data from a leading US government watchdog agency.
The new study from the National institute of Occupational Safety and Health published in the Journal of Industrial Medicine reports that over 427,000 life years were lost from 1999 to 2010 because of early deaths from mesothelioma and asbestosis.
NIOSH researchers reported that life years lost to mesothelioma and asbestosis changed little between 1999 and 2010 despite stricter government guidelines implemented for using and handling asbestos.
Those of us in the mesothelioma community know all too well that the impact of those lives lost to asbestos exposure are like a pebble in a brook. The impact ripples outward also affecting the productivity of family members and friends as they cope with grief from the premature loss of a loved one.
For mesothelioma patients, the number of potential life years lost because of early death was even higher than that for asbestosis. When compared to their normal life expectancy, mesothelioma patients who died between 1999 and 2010 lost a total of 370,098 potential life years. Even if these patients’ life expectancies were capped at age 65, they still would have lost more than 53,000 life years.
“The continuing occurrence of asbestos-associated diseases and their substantial premature mortality burden underscore the need for maintaining prevention efforts and for ongoing surveillance to monitor these diseases,” the researchers conclude in their published report.
And this data is just for the U.S. Looking at the global picture, the death toll and years lost becomes even more overwhelming.
A new study by Japanese researchers published in the same journal a month earlier analyzed statistics for mesothelioma deaths from 82 countries and asbestosis deaths in 55 countries from 1994 to 2010 as reported to the World Health Organization. The 128,015 people who died from mesothelioma potentially lost a total of 2.18 million years of life, with an average loss of 17 years per person.
How do you measure a year in the life of a person? There are 525,600 minutes in a year. Multiply that by 17. How many of those minutes would have held sunsets, hugs, and laughter? All taken away because an employer or manufacturer exposed them to asbestos.