It’s likely that most cancer experts would predict that rates of mesothelioma would be highest in the states that are historically highly-industrial or perhaps where coal mining has long been a profession of choice for generations of individuals.
But a report by the Centers for Disease Control indicates that the state with the highest number of asbestos deaths is Maine, with an annual death rate of 22.06 per one million people.
The number that puts Maine at the top profiles deaths from malignant mesothelioma between the years 1999 and 2015. The only other state that topped 20 deaths per million was Washington.
According to Mainepublic.org, the CDC report states that 45,221 individuals in the U.S. died of the disease during that time period. Most of them were men and most were over the age of 85.
The general assumption is that these older individuals were exposed to asbestos during their working years as malignant mesothelioma of all types can take decades to develop.
The analysis also noted that incidences of the disease are decreasing among those under the age of 55, which is good news. However, the fact that anyone younger than 55 is developing mesothelioma means that there is still exposure occurring, despite the fact that the U.S. government began regulating workers’ exposure to toxic asbestos back in the early 1970s.
Sadly, overall, the numbers presented in the analysis represent an increase of 4.8 percent during the years when statistics were monitored. Experts find those statistics to be alarming.
“Despite regulatory actions and decline in asbestos use, the annual number of malignant mesothelioma deaths remains substantial,” the analysis states.
“Contrary to past projections, the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths has been increasing. The continuing occurrence of mesothelioma deaths, particularly among younger populations, underscores the need for maintaining efforts to prevent exposure”.
Maine’s chief medical officer, Dr. Chris Pezzullo, notes that he hopes the state isn’t judged by these numbers, stressing that he believes most cases of mesothelioma in that state stem from exposure that happened decades ago.
However, the majority of mesothelioma deaths in Maine occurred between the ages of 55 and 84, which does indicate some likely recent exposures.
The study also notes that the industries most likely responsible for the high number of mesothelioma deaths in Maine include construction, shipbuilding, and boatbuilding.
Asbestos was once used in countless building materials and because the housing stock in Maine is so old – 31 percent of units were built prior to 1950 – the chance of encountering asbestos during renovations, demolition, or even DIY projects, is high.
As for shipbuilding, those who worked in that industry have historically had a very high incidence of mesothelioma.
Military ships through the Vietnam War and beyond contained abundant amounts of asbestos, and both civilian employees and military personnel were likely to encounter the toxin while working on U.S. Navy ships. Independent boatbuilders faced the same risk, though perhaps on a smaller scale.