Mesothelioma Epidemic Plagues Coastal Italian Cities

In the northeastern coastal towns of Italy’s large shipping industry, there is a growing epidemic of mesothelioma affecting not only working men, but domestic women as well. 

Italian researchers have studied a trend in the coastal Italian towns of Trieste and Monfalcone, and have concluded that the residents suffer from malignant pleural mesothelioma at a greater rate because of their heavy maritime industry.  In a recent published study, Italian researchers studied the occupations of over 800 mesothelioma patients who were diagnosed between 1968 and 2008, and found that more than half of those diagnosed were employed in or related to shipyard life.

The results found that 80% of the mesothelioma patients in the study were exposed to asbestos before 1960, and of those diagnosed, 75% had been exposed to asbestos for a period greater than 20 years.  Depending on the extent of exposure to asbestos by the victim, the latency period can be between ten to forty years.  The study found that among the patients who worked as shipbuilders, the latency period (the time it takes for the disease to fully appear) was fifty years, and those who handled asbestos insulation the latency period was thirty five years. 

The study concluded that the vast majority of the patients diagnosed in their pool of patients developed mesothelioma because of many years spent continuously exposed to the hazardous material. While the vast majority of mesothelioma victims in the study were men, the study also found close to fifty women who had developed the same type of mesothelioma as the men who worked in asbestos occupations. 

The female patients in the study developed malignant mesothelioma from years of handling the asbestos fiber ridden clothes of their husbands and sons; this occurrence is known as second hand exposure. The latency period for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in the study from domestic second hand exposure averaged about fifty years, substantially more than persons directly exposed to asbestos.