Asbestosis and Silicosis–Overblown Fears

Remember the great asbestos scare of a couple of decades ago? In hindsight, the fears were exaggerated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 3,750 deaths in 1999 were attributable to asbestosis or mesothelioma, the two main asbestos-related diseases.

This means the average US resident has a 0.0014% chance of catching either disease.

Further affecting this scant probability, the vast majority of cases involved extended occupational exposure. That is, you work with asbestos-containing substances for years. On top of that, smokers appear to account for the majority of asbestosis deaths. (The same smoking link does not hold for mesothelioma.)

It’s almost impossible for the average American to suffer asbestos-related harm.

The hoopla over asbestos, especially the associated litigation, is vastly disproportionate to the actual harm. This suggests asbestos fears are a profiteering ruse by trial lawyers.

It doesn’t end. The next big scare is silicosis.

Many home improvement products, including stuff as diverse as cement and wood filler, now have silicosis warnings. These products can release fine silica when disturbed, such as when sanding. This fine silica gets in the lungs and causes silicosis.

CDC stats show that 1999 had 187 silicosis-related deaths. At 0.000069% of the US population, that represents a drastic decline since the late 1960s.

A detailed study of three states found that silicosis deaths are highly correlated to the victim’s occupation and industry, again suggesting extended occupational exposure is key to suffering harm.

I believe that the average person, especially even the hobbyist or “do it yourself” person who repeatedly disturbs materials containing substances, has little to fear. The vast number of people who already do this without suffering harm should be enough evidence. It takes persistent, long-term exposure, sometimes coupled with smoking, to cause harm.

Data sources:

One thought on “Asbestosis and Silicosis–Overblown Fears”

  1. We rent a 1978 home with hugely corroding cement garage floor where my husband does hobby work (you can feel the sust in air feom the dusty gatage) and some cracks in back cement area where rhe kids play … im terrified of my kids (and husband — but kess fearful for him) harming their lungs by breathing in he dust — its not CRAZY DUST by any means — bu i read even a small amount can scar lungs … so terrifying; walking into home depo seems to pose same scare as the cement section has lots of dust from bags beeinf disturbed … i hope you are right.

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