Decades-Old Asbestos Exposure Impacts Current Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost

Asbestos exposure that occurred decades ago continues to influence asbestosis-related mortality and years of potential life lost today, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dec. 12 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Workers in construction, boat building/repairing, plumbing and pipefitting may especially be at risk.

The analysis focused on asbestos-related years of potential life lost before age 65 (YPLL) in the United States from 1968-2005, showing the average of 146.0 YPLL per year during1968-1972 increased 64 percent 239.6 in 2001-2005. The report suggests that asbestosis-related YPLL therefore will continue to occur and that steps must be taken to prevent and eliminate asbestosis.

“YPLL are a measure of premature mortality that emphasizes deaths occurring among younger persons during their most productive years. Persons dying before age 65 years are considered as having years of potential work tenure lost, on the assumption that these are a worker’s most productive years,” the report read.

At-Risk Industries

According to the report, an estimated 1.3 million construction and general industry workers in the United States may be exposed to asbestos every year. Most exposure occurs during renovation or demolition activities. Some miners may be at risk of asbestos exposure in ores, even though asbestos ore itself is no longer mined in the United States.

The MMWR data shows that of the 54 industries reported, construction had the highest YPLL of 244, with the mean per decedent being 5.7 years. Ship and boat building/repairing and military industries followed, both recording YPLL of 41, with a mean of 5.9. Insulation workers, managers and administrators and plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters were the occupations with the highest YPLL, with a mean per decedent of 5.9, 7.2 and 4.7, respectively.

“Despite the decline in asbestos use and reduced exposures, the findings described in this report indicate that asbestosis-attributable YPLL continue to occur. Because asbestosis mortality typically manifests several decades after initial exposure to asbestos, much of the continuing YPLL likely is attributed to exposures experienced decades ago,” the report said.

The report also indicated that the occurrence of asbestos in younger personal emphasizes the need for “persistent asbestosis prevention and elimination efforts.”

Asbestos-related information and guidance is available at http://www.cdc.gov/health/asbestos.htm.

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