Posted on June 9, 2022

The first clinically recorded case of an asbestos-induced lung disease was recorded over 100 years ago, in 1906. Dr. Montague Murray at London’s Charing Cross Hospital diagnosed a 33-year old man who had worked in an asbestos textile plant for 14 years with asbestosis. Since this original diagnosis, physicians and researchers established that asbestos exposure causes multiple potentially-fatal diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and cancers of the lung, larynx and ovaries. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs). Exposure to asbestos occurs through inhalation of fibers in the air, in the working environment, ambient air in the vicinity of point sources such as factories handling asbestos, or indoor air in housing and buildings containing friable (crumbly) asbestos materials.”

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington, was the first organization to comprehensively compile statistics on deaths from asbestos-caused lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, larynx cancer, and chronic asbestosis. According to the IHME database, 40,764 American workers died from asbestos-caused diseases in 2019. They also report that from 1991 to 2019, ​​1,114,520 Americans  died from asbestos-caused diseases. 

The top ten states with the greatest number of asbestos-caused deaths from 1991 – 2019 are: California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Michigan,  New Jersey and Virginia.

However, it is hard to track the number of lives lost. Therefore, for the first time, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an independent nonprofit dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure through education, advocacy, and community, has put together state-by-state data from IHME to show how many lives have been lost from 1999 to 2019 to preventable asbestos-caused illnesses. According to IHME, these deaths were occupational, caused by diseases including asbestosis, larynx cancer, tracheal bronchus, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and mesothelioma. People of all ages lost their lives to these illnesses. 

Over the years, nearly 70 other countries have banned asbestos, but the United States lets imports and use continue. In the article “Invited Perspective: Eliminating Toxics to Prevent Disease: Asbestos Leads the Way,” authors David Kriebel and Douglas J. Myers opened by saying, “Countries that have consumed more asbestos have historically had higher mortality rates from asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) than countries with lower asbestos consumption … we agree with the urgent need to stop producing and using asbestos.” Unfortunately, it’s no secret that the United States is a leading asbestos consumer. In fact, recent data from the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) indicates that U.S. Industry has imported more than 114 metric tons of raw chrysotile asbestos in the first three months of 2022. A sum greater than the total annual asbestos imports from 2021. With clear correlation between asbestos consumption and mortality rates from asbestos-related diseases, it’s time for our nation to prioritize public health and human life over profit. 

State-by-State: Asbestos-Caused Deaths from 1991-2019

ALABAMA: 21,348 deaths 

ALASKA: ​​1,703 deaths 

ARIZONA: 18,391 deaths

ARKANSAS: 10,913 deaths

CALIFORNIA: 90,379 deaths

COLORADO: 10,011 deaths

CONNECTICUT: 14,033 deaths

DELAWARE: 4,354  deaths

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: 1,244 deaths

FLORIDA: 76,008 deaths

GEORGIA: 23,217 deaths

HAWAII: 3,244 deaths

IDAHO: 4,575 deaths

ILLINOIS: 52,250 deaths

INDIANA: 28,185 deaths

IOWA: 11,577 deaths

KANSAS: 9,730 deaths

KENTUCKY: 19,397 deaths

LOUISIANA: 22,953 deaths

MAINE: 8,853 deaths

MARYLAND: ​​20,066 deaths

MASSACHUSETTS: 30,731 deaths

MICHIGAN: 41,008 deaths

MINNESOTA: 20,873 deaths

MISSISSIPPI: 11,855 deaths

MISSOURI: 23,994 deaths

MONTANA: 4,456 deaths

NEBRASKA: 6,971 deaths

NEVADA: 8,013 deaths

NEW HAMPSHIRE: 5,588 deaths

NEW JERSEY: 39,131 deaths

NEW MEXICO: 4,694 deaths

NEW YORK: ​​56,594 deaths

NORTH CAROLINA: 31,184 deaths

NORTH DAKOTA: 2,800 deaths

OHIO: 57,019 deaths

OKLAHOMA: 13,183 deaths

OREGON: 16,891 deaths

PENNSYLVANIA: 71,475 deaths

RHODE ISLAND: 5,097 deaths

SOUTH CAROLINA: 17,105 deaths

SOUTH DAKOTA: 2,851 deaths

TENNESSEE: 24,990 deaths

TEXAS: 60,889 deaths

UTAH: 3,851 deaths

VERMONT: ​​2,437 deaths

VIRGINIA: 32,275 deaths

WASHINGTON: 26,917 deaths

WEST VIRGINIA: 13,321 deaths

WISCONSIN: 23,801 deaths

WYOMING: 2,072 deaths