If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you probably tend to view asbestos-caused diseases as a United States thing – a problem that abounds in the US due to its once abundant use of the toxic mineral. However, there are countries that have much higher rates of the disease – like Great Britain and Australia – and even little countries like Iceland are concerned enough about mesothelioma to conduct studies on the incidence and rise in mesothelioma cases.
For example, a recent issue of the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology featured the results of a study by Tomasson et al of Iceland, evaluating changes in the incidence of malignant mesothelioma in that country and measuring what impact a 1983 ban on the material may have today on the number of cases of the disease diagnosed there each year.
The fact that Icelandic doctors/researchers were prompted to make such a study obviously points to the fact that asbestos use touched every corner of the world over the years. The Nordic island of Iceland, about 36,000 square miles in size and currently home to a population of approximately 332,000, obviously had an asbestos problem.
Though much of the economy depended heavily on fishing, Iceland was – at one time – one of the main exporters of aluminum and ferrosilicon, produced in blast furnaces that were likely lined with asbestos. Chances are that many other asbestos-containing products were used in Iceland’s plants and factories as well.
The authors of the study also allude to a high per capita volume of asbestos imports during the years prior to 1983, noting that many buildings, equipment, and structures in Iceland still contain asbestos. That means that the risk is ongoing though no new imports have been accepted in the last 33 years.
As in the United States, which issued laws about asbestos use in the years just prior to the Nordic island’s ban, Iceland continues to see a steady flow of cases of mesothelioma, even more than 30 years after the ban.
Those numbers are supported by the fact that, in most cases, mesothelioma has a long latency period and can take several decades to surface.
Though the U.S. hopes to see a steady decline in cases of mesothelioma over the next decade, as in Iceland the threat of being exposed to asbestos is still a very real possibility. Not only can asbestos still be found in some workplaces and in less-expected locations such as schools, but homes and commercial buildings may still contain the toxic material.
These days, exposure often happens through DIY projects that include renovations or remodeling. Often, homeowners encounter asbestos quite unexpectedly and, once exposure happens, nothing can be done to reverse the fact that asbestos dust may have been inhaled.
Countries around the world continue to stress the importance of avoiding exposure to all types of toxic asbestos and advocates for a total ban in the U.S. will keep stating their point. Hopefully, someone will hear them soon and, eventually, diseases like mesothelioma will become a thing of the past.