UK asbestos imports and mortality due to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Occup Med (Lond). 2016 Mar;66(2):106-11. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqv142. Epub 2015 Oct 28.


Background: Previous studies have demonstrated that the rising mortality due to mesothelioma and asbestosis can be predicted from historic asbestos usage. Mortality due to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is also rising, without any apparent explanation.

Aims: To compare mortality due to these conditions and examine the relationship between mortality and national asbestos imports.

Methods: Mortality data for IPF and asbestosis in England and Wales were available from the Office for National Statistics. Data for mesothelioma deaths in England and Wales and historic UK asbestos import data were available from the Health & Safety Executive. The numbers of annual deaths due to each condition were plotted separately by gender, against UK asbestos imports 48 years earlier. Linear regression models were constructed.

Results: For mesothelioma and IPF, there was a significant linear relationship between the number of male and female deaths each year and historic UK asbestos imports. For asbestosis mortality, a similar relationship was found for male but not female deaths. The annual numbers of deaths due to asbestosis in both sexes were lower than for IPF and mesothelioma.

Conclusions: The strength of the association between IPF mortality and historic asbestos imports was similar to that seen in an established asbestos-related disease, i.e. mesothelioma. This finding could in part be explained by diagnostic difficulties in separating asbestosis from IPF and highlights the need for a more accurate method of assessing lifetime occupational asbestos exposure.

Keywords: Asbestos; asbestosis; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; mesothelioma..

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Asbestos*
  • Asbestosis / mortality*
  • Asbestosis / physiopathology
  • Carcinogens
  • Construction Materials / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / mortality*
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Lung Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / mortality*
  • Mesothelioma / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Registries
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Carcinogens
  • Asbestos