The prevalence of mesothelioma and asbestosis disease is continuing to rise around the world with increasing loss to life expectancy, as defined by the “remaining number of potential years in an individual’s life.”

An extensive new Occupational and Environmental Health study claims that between 1994 and 2010, “more than 2.1 million years of human life were lost to malignant mesothelioma,” despite growing asbestos awareness to the long term health risks and advances in asbestosis treatments.

Asbestos-related disease on a steep rise…

The peak years of widespread asbestos use as insulation, fireproofing and a material strengthener in industrial and commercial products declined from when the first ban was introduced in the mid 1980s in the UK, followed by North America, Europe and Australia. However, asbestos-related disease is on a steep rise throughout many of the developing economies of Southeast Asia and Africa.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 107,000 people worldwide die each year from an asbestos-related disease and the UK still has the highest mesothelioma mortality rate at nearly 18 deaths per million. Occupational exposure to asbestos remains the highest for males at 80 per cent with those who work in the building industry most at risk

Of the 82 countries included in the WHO calculations, today’s main asbestos using countries – China, India and Russia – are conspicuously absent from the statistics because reliable national figures are simply unavailable.

Average life expectancy cut short…

The new research reveals that average life expectancy cut short by asbestos-related disease was 17 years for mesothelioma and 13 years for asbestosis. With life expectancy having increased in recent decades, even victims who pass away at a relatively mature age can still lose a number of potential remaining years.

According to the study results, the average age of death from mesothelioma was 69.2 years and 73.4 years for those suffering asbestosis disease. While women lived longer than men by just over 3 years, life expectancy in general has increased, and both sexes can now live on into their mid-80s or beyond.

Globally, the report claims there is an annual average of 200,785 potential years of “lost life” caused by mesothelioma and 17,124 due to asbestosis.

Under reporting and misdiagnosis…

The research also pinpointed “under-reporting and misdiagnosis” of asbestos disease among elderly victims as contributing to inaccurate figures. In the UK, for example, while there were 2,347 mesothelioma deaths reported in 2010, more than 400 cases where victims have died from asbestosis without mention of mesothelioma, were recorded on the Asbestosis register in the same year. In 2011, there were 1,985 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Asbestos exposure is also believed to be related to the deaths of 4,500 people – or more than 5 in ten of 8,000 deaths caused by occupational cancer in England and Wales each year. Current estimates suggest that over the next ten years at least, as many as 28,000 victims of exposure to asbestos will have their lives cut short by malignant mesothelioma.