Researchers observed 99,000 asbestos workers and found that men had a 63% increased risk of dying from heart disease, and the risk for women exposed to the fibers more than doubled. Researchers looked at deaths that occurred between 1971 and 2005, and adjusted for factors like smoking that could affect heart disease risk. Asbestos was widely used in a number of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century, with its use peaking in 1973 before most uses of the material were banned in the mid-1980s.
When inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, which is a cancer found in the lining of the chest and lungs, is the most serious side effect of asbestos exposure. The cancer is only known to develop in individuals exposed to asbestos fibers, which can occur from working directly with it or living around it, or indirectly if the fibers are carried home on clothes or in the hair. Mesothelioma has a very long latency period and is often not discovered until decades after the initial exposure, which severely limits life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Asbestos litigation, including claims filed for asbestosis and mesothelioma, is the longest-running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first asbestos case filed in 1929. Since that time, over 600,000 people have filed lawsuits against 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related diseases. With the publication of this new study, it seems those exposed to asbestos may now have heart disease to worry about as well, which may lead to additional asbestos litigation.