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Occupational burden of asbestos-related cancer in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico

Annals of Global Health
DOI: 10.1016/j.aogh.2014.09.003
  • Asbestos
  • Burden Of Disease
  • Neoplasms
  • Occupation
  • Latin America
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Medicine


Abstract Background An estimate at national level of the occupational cancer burden brought about by the industrial uses of asbestos requires detailed routine information on such uses as well as vital statistics of good quality. A causal association with asbestos exposure has been established for mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovary. Objectives To provide estimates of the occupational burden of asbestos-related cancer for the Latin American countries which are or have been the highest asbestos consumers in the Region: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. Methods The burden of multifactorial cancers has been estimated through the approach suggested by Driscoll et coll. for the WHO using the Population Attributable Fraction (PAF). The following data were used: a) proportion of workforce employed in each economic sector; b) proportion of workers exposed to asbestos in each sector; c) occupational turnover; d) levels of exposure; e) proportion of the population in the workforce; f) relative risk for each considered disease for one or more levels of exposure. Data on point b. are not available for Latin American countries; therefore, data from the European CAREX database (carcinogen exposure database) were used. Findings and conclusions Using mortality data of the WHO Health Statistics database for the year 2009 and applying the estimated values for PAFs, the number of estimated deaths in 5 years for mesothelioma and for lung, larynx, and ovary cancers attributable to occupational asbestos exposures, were respectively 735, 233, 29, 14 for Argentina; 340, 611, 68, 43 for Brazil; 255, 97, 14, 9 for Colombia, and 1,075, 219, 18, 22 for Mexico. The limitations in compiling the estimates underline the need for improvement in the quality of asbestos-related environmental and health data. Nevertheless, the figures are already usable to promote asbestos ban.

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