Vilka asbestexponeringar kan ha orsakat dagens mesoteliomfall?

This report is only available in Swedish. English summary is available in the report.


In Sweden, around 120 deaths annually are caused by malignant mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer with tumours in the pleura or stomach lining (peritoneum). Exposure to asbestos is the main known cause for both these forms of mesothelioma. There is no known safe exposure to asbestos and the latency time between exposure and falling ill is generally long, usually 20-50 years. Apart from the deaths due to mesothelioma, for each mesothelioma case there are around six other cases of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Despite the asbestos ban of certain use of asbestos already in the middle of the 1970s and the total ban in 1982, the Swedish Cancer Registry’s statistics shows that the number of mesothelioma cases increased until 1992 and have since then been quite stable both for men and women.

The aim of this study is to investigate where, those who are currently diagnosed with mesothelioma, have been exposed to asbestos. The focus of the study is on those who started working after 1982. The aim is to identify situations with risk of exposure and investigate if there seems to be unknown exposures that may cause mesothelioma. This means that only a small fraction of the 120 people who die from mesothelioma annually are included in the target group of this project, as most of those dying from mesothelioma are older and were exposed to asbestos before the ban. In the period 1997-2017, 147 people in the age up to 54 years died from mesothelioma. Out of these, 110 died during the years 1998-2007 and 37 in the years 2008-2017.

This study provides a better understanding of which types of exposure to asbestos still may exist. It also indicates what types of measures must be taken in order to avoid new cases of mesothelioma due to these exposure risks.

It is well known that mesothelioma has a long latency period. Out of the mesothelioma cases among young people (born after 1953) which we have been able to study, around half depend on exposure before the asbestos ban, that is more than 30 years ago. This is in accordance with the long latency period for mesothelioma. The professions and work tasks involved in asbestos exposure in these cases are known, e.g. work on construction sites, car repair shops (i.e. work with brake linings with asbestos), shipbuilding and work as electrician.

Six cases in this study seem to be due to exposure after the asbestos ban. These cases concern mainly the construction industry, and a couple of cases involving work with eternite tiles, where the tiles were cut with a saw which generated dust containing asbestos. In several cases there were comments such as “negligence about respiratory protection” or “work was often carried out in dusty environments”.

In one case, exposure was not due to work with asbestos but rather to staying in premises which were under reconstruction and where there probably was asbestos in both the floor and ventilation system.

In one case, a person born in the period 1982-1985, no cause of the mesothelioma could be established.

Based on this study, we draw the conclusion that current cases of mesothelioma among people starting to work after the asbestos ban often depend on known exposures scenarios in combination with a lack of control measures, which should be applied but are not.

Coworkers: Fanny Isaksson Lantto, Bo Sahlberg, Ann-Beth Antonsson

Year: 2019.0

Report number: B2347

Authors: Ann-Beth Antonsson, Fanny Isaksson Lantto, Bo Sahlberg

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