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Asbestos and its underestimated role in occupational disease

Previous estimates from the World Health Organization and the International Health Organization state that asbestos-related diseases cause 105,000 to 110,000 deaths every year worldwide. New Jersey residents who work around asbestos should know that these are far off the mark. A new study from the International Commission of Occupational Health states that the actual number may be double that of previous estimates.

ICOH found that in 2016, there were 222,321 deaths globally due to occupational asbestos-related disease. This includes 39,275 people in the U.S. Researchers explained that though asbestos is popularly linked with mesothelioma, it can lead to a wide range of health conditions, including lung, ovarian and larynx cancer. In fact, it results in six times more cases of lung cancer than of mesothelioma.

What hampered previous estimates was the fact that so many cases of lung cancer were not identified as being caused by asbestos. Many oncologists simply identified smoking as the cause, and many countries in general have never bothered to be detailed about the cancers they detect. Under-reporting remains a serious issue.

Though 62 countries have banned asbestos, more than 100 countries continue to use it, mostly for building materials. Even in Europe and the U.S., many structures contain it, and ICOH states that not enough is being done in those regions to eliminate it from existing structures.

Employers may or may not be responsible for cases of asbestos exposure among their employees. It depends on whether they follow federal safety guidelines and provide adequate training. If negligence is not an issue, those who suffer workplace injuries can file for workers compensation. This way, there is no question of anyone being to blame. However, the insurance provider may still try to deny benefits, so workers might want to hire a lawyer before filing. A lawyer may also be able to assist with an appeal.

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