Killing The Future: Asbestos Use In Asia

Paying the price

Asbestos Experience of Asian Countries

Despite the progressive increase in asbestos consumption in Asia over recent decades, the number of individuals being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a signature cancer of asbestos exposure, remains low. Research presented by Dr. Claudio Bianchi at the Asian asbestos Conference in 2006 elaborated on the discrepancies between the incidence of mesothelioma in European and Asian countries. He posited the following explanations:

Although huge amounts of asbestos were used in Japan between 1960-2000,80 the number of pleural mesotheliomos was extremely low (about 150 per year) until the early 1990s.81Comparing the number of cases of mesothelioma in two similar sized shipyard areas in Japan and Italy in the last 3 decades of the 20th century showed a huge differential with 48 cases in Yokosuka, Japan and 557 cases in Trieste-Monfalcone, Italy.

The absence of historical measurements data of hazardous asbestos exposures, a common problem in many countries, has been an obstacle to campaigners facing government demands for proof that asbestos can kill.82 According to Dr. Ken Takahashi, co-author of a paper published in The Lancet in March 2007, there is another way to predict the human cost of asbestos use: "the volume of asbestos consumed per head can act as a surrogate for the exposure levels of a population and ecological associations between exposure rates and disease rates can be measured." The authors of Ecological Association between Asbestos-related Diseases and Historical Asbestos Consumption: and International Analysis 83 found a "clear and plausible" correlation between the amounts of national asbestos consumption in 1960-69 and the incidence of asbestos mortality in 2000-2004; statistical calculations using data from 33 countries revealed that"

"Historical asbestos consumption was a highly significant positive predictor of all mesothelioma mortality…

The association for asbestosis mortality rate was positive and statistically significant in men…The slope showed a 2.7 fold increase in deaths from asbestosis in men per 1kg incremental rise in asbestos consumption in the populations."

Speaking of a "global epidemic of asbestos-related disease," the scientists "strongly support the recommendation that all countries should move towards eliminating (the) use of asbestos."


80. Data presented by Dr. Bianchi at the Asian Asbestos Conference in Bangkok in July 2006 showed that the peak use of asbestos in Japan, Singapore and Thailand was 398,877t (1980), 8,671t (1975) and 190,205t (1996), respectively.
81. Kazan-Allen L. Report on Asian Asbestos Conference.
82. Press release. Historical Asbestos Consumption is Associated with Asbestos-Related Diseases. The Lancet, March 10, 2007. "About 20-40% of adult men are thought to have held jobs that could have entailed some asbestos exposure. However, attempts to estimate the proportion of exposed people in populations are hampered by the absence of reliable estimates of people with occupational asbestos exposure, for women's exposure, and for environmental exposure."
83. Lin R, Takahashi K, Karjalainen A et. al. Ecological Association between Asbestos-related Diseases and Historical Asbestos Consumption: an International Analysis. The Lancet, March 10, 2007. Vol 369 844-849.

Back to Table of Contents