Korean Mesothelioma Numbers Expected to Rise

According to a report from the Korean Ministry of Environment, “the number of people suffering from malignant mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos is expected to peak in 2045,” the Korean Herald reports Using comparison trends of asbestos use and its effect on patients in Korean, the Netherlands, and Japan, The Korea Herald reported the Ministry’s findings earlier this week, explaining that Korea, along with other nations “has entered the stage where the number of patients suffering from asbestos-related conditions is set to increase.” The Herald reported that “the Dutch government has regulated the use of asbestos since 1991, while in Japan the use of the material was banned in 2005.” The article also notes a connection between the increase of patients and the disease’s long latency period, which is seen throughout all mesothelioma patients. Asbestos fibers, once inhaled or ingested, embed themselves in tissues lining vital organ systems. Once within these tissues, asbestos particles act as a carcinogen, with symptoms often not presenting themselves until between 20 to 50 years following exposure. The Herald reported that “a related regulation” will “be implemented next year” in the nation. This nation’s new regulations regarding asbestos use will take effect in April 2012, The Herald reports. The news source goes on to explain that “The National Institute of Environmental Research expects the law to prevent up to 20,000 asbestos-related deaths over the next 50 years.” There is speculation that these regulations will be a major reason the disease peaks for Koreans in 2045. Governmental regulations have existed in the United States since the 1970s and 80s, though these laws were still implemented after it was known that the mineral caused serious health hazardous. However, a full ban, such as the one in Japan, does not currently exist in the United States. Researchers for the Ministry’s report were quoted in the Herald as stating that, “‘Korea has just started seeing a surge in the number of victims to asbestos exposure. In Japan, the increase started in early 2000 and is expected to peak around 2030. In the Netherlands, industrialization using the cancer-causing material began earlier than the other two countries. The prevalence is forecast to rise to the highest level in 2017.’” Also alarming are the increases already occurring. The Herald stated that the number of facility-registered mesothelioma patients rose from “61 in 1996 to 152 in 2007.” The growing awareness of asbestos dangers in Korea was highlighted last week, when asbestos fibers were uncovered in professional baseball stadiums across the nation. However, based on the officials’ response, it is apparent not all authorities in this nation take such risks as seriously as others. According to an article appearing in The Wall Street Journal, despite a recently-uncovered asbestos exposure risk to athletes and fans, the Korean Baseball Organization has stated that “the pro baseball season will continue.” In late September, environmental experts reported that “testing showed that dirt in five of the seven pro baseball stadiums contains higher-than-standard levels of asbestos,” the news source reports. The Korea Herald goes on to report that according to the national Institute of Environmental Research, “‘The nation has to pay the cost (of removing asbestos) before getting benefits, but considering that asbestos damage will peak in 30 years, the regulation from next year has more merits than demerits.’” However, those Koreans who are at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases, including professional baseball players and fans, might argue that those “demerits” are not even valid to discuss, based on the serious potential health impacts.
  • Ji-sook, Bae. (October 3, 2011) “Asbestos cancer cases to peak in 2045.” Retrieved on October 4, 2011 from The Korea Herald.
  • Ramstad, Evan. (September 30, 2011) “Play Ball! The Asbestos Cleanup Will Wait.” Retrieved on October 4, 2011 from The Wall Street Journal.
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