The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) examined data on causes of death to determine how asbestos-related diseases affect life span and premature mortality. The scientists concluded that asbestos related diseases do cause a significant number of years lost due to premature death.
Results of the study found that the use of asbestos in construction materials has resulted in a 64 percent increase in the years of potential life lost (YPLL) from 1968 through 2005. YPLL takes into consideration the number of working years lost from someone dying before the typical retirement age of 65. Those who have passed away before then are considered to have lost years of productivity in the workforce when they succumb to asbestos-related diseases. This study also looked at the connection between work industry and YPLL. The data concurred with the notion that those in construction, shipbuilding, and military industries, who most closely worked with asbestos, had the greatest loss of potential life years.
These three industries saw an average loss of life expectancy between 5.7 and 5.9 years. Certain limitations surround the study and the availability of data. Six major drawbacks to the study were noted by the scientists. These included: examining death certificates which might have attributed death to another cause than an asbestos-related disease; the victim’s entire work history was not recorded on the certificates, skewing results if one changed industries over their career; only 26 states reported the industries wherein the deceased worked; the deceased did not always die in the state where they were exposed to asbestos; the codes for cause of death changed during the period studied, 1968-2005; and YPLL did not account for the overall effect of asbestos-related diseases on one’s life. Asbestos was a commonly used construction material in insulation and fireproofing throughout the first part of the twentieth century. It was discovered in the 1970s that asbestos exposure led to several often fatal diseases. These include many forms of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestosis, a scarring of the lung tissue, is also an asbestos-caused ailment that has been seen as a precursor to mesothelioma and lung cancers. For years, the correlation between these diseases and asbestos was not readily clear since the cancers would not develop until decades after the exposure. The clear message from the CDC’s study is a call for action to continue in the elimination of asbestos for the future health and productivity of the nation.