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ICOH study reassesses number of asbestos-related deaths

There are probably many people in New Jersey who work in conditions where they can be exposed to asbestos. Several international organizations have estimated that 105,000 to 110,000 deaths are caused every year by this toxic mineral. However, a recent study from the International Commission of Occupational Health shows that the actual number may be twice as high.

ICOH estimates that in 2016, a total of 222,321 people died from occupational asbestos-related disease. That includes 39,275 people in the U.S. The authors stress how asbestos should not be solely linked with mesothelioma as it can cause a range of other conditions. In fact, it results in six times more cases of lung cancer. In 2016, 181,450 died from lung cancer and 27,612 from mesothelioma. Other frequent outcomes are ovarian and larynx cancer.

In the past, oncologists had a hard time identifying lung cancers caused by asbestos exposure, and in many cases, they would name smoking as the cause. Better methods of identification have contributed to the more accurate estimate. ICOH additionally points to underreporting of cancer figures as a major factor.

The authors believe that developing countries that still use asbestos can successfully transition to other materials. More than 100 countries have no asbestos ban. ICOH also criticizes Europe and the U.S. for not doing enough about asbestos already in place in buildings.

Occupational diseases can be covered under the workers' compensation program, but for their claim to be successful, victims will want to hire a lawyer. They must first wait until they have reached maximum medical improvement, and then they will need to undergo a medical examination. An attorney can use this examination in addition to other evidence to help a victim gain a fair amount in benefits. Workers' comp lawyers can also help families or other dependents file for death benefits.

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