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Data developed since the early 1970's from large population studies with long follow-up strengthen the association of asbestos exposure to disease. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are the most important asbestos-related causes of death among exposed individuals. The accumulated data suggest that the excess risk of lung cancer from asbestos exposure is proportional to the cumulative exposure (the duration times the intensity) and the underlying risk of lung cancer in the absence of exposure. The risk of death from mesothelioma appears to be proportional to the cumulative exposure to asbestos in a given period. Animal studies confirm the human epidemiological results. All major asbestos varieties produce lung cancer and mesothelioma with only limited differences in carcinogenic potency. Some measurements demonstrate that significant asbestos exposure, exceeding 100 times the background, occurs to individuals in non-occupational environments. Currently, the most important of these non-occupational exposures is from the release of fibers from asbestos-containing surfacing materials in schools, auditoriums, and other public buildings or from asbestos fireproofing sprayed in high-rise office buildings.


Nicholson, W. DRAFT ASBESTOS HEALTH ASSESSMENT UPDATE. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., EPA/600/8-84/003A (NTIS PB84186832).

Additional Information

Prepared in cooperation with Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. Environmental Sciences Lab.