The worldwide pandemic of asbestos-related diseases

Annu Rev Public Health. 2013:34:205-16. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031811-124704. Epub 2013 Jan 4.


Asbestos-related diseases are still a major public health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 107,000 people worldwide die each year from mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. We review what is known about asbestos use, production, and exposure and asbestos-related diseases in the world today, and we offer predictions for the future. Although worldwide consumption of asbestos has decreased, consumption is increasing in many developing countries. The limited data available suggest that exposures may also be high in developing countries. Mesothelioma is still increasing in most European countries and in Japan but has peaked in the United States and Sweden. Although the epidemic of asbestos-related disease has plateaued or is expected to plateau in most of the developed world, little is known about the epidemic in developing countries. It is obvious that increased asbestos use by these countries will result in an increase in asbestos-related diseases in the future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Asbestosis / epidemiology*
  • Asbestosis / etiology
  • Asbestosis / mortality
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Mesothelioma / epidemiology*
  • Mesothelioma / etiology
  • Mesothelioma / mortality
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pandemics*
  • World Health Organization


  • Asbestos