A new report by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found asbestos dust is a risk to workers, the environment and the health of the population.
The report, released Thursday, also suggests that asbestos dust from older homes and businesses is a bigger health threat than asbestos dust found in new homes.
“In most cases, there is no evidence that asbestos exposure is associated with increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease or stroke,” the report said.
“But there is evidence that there is a high risk of developing other chronic conditions, such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, which is consistent with previous research.”
The National Institute on Occupational Health and Safety, or NIOSH, said asbestos dust was one of the most common indoor air pollutants in the United States, accounting for over 40 percent of the total indoor air pollution in 2016.
“The risk of health effects associated with exposure to asbestos dust has been recognized for decades, and the findings in this report provide important new information to inform occupational health and safety policies,” said Dr. David Katz, a NIOSH epidemiologist.
“We believe that asbestos-related disease and death rates will increase substantially as we move toward the construction of new homes and commercial buildings and to build out new structures and new buildings in communities across the country.”
The report’s authors, Dr. Thomas L. Fuhrman, of the NIOSH’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, and Dr. Richard D. Gaffney, a senior health epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the health consequences of exposure to this dust are “consistent with previous epidemiological studies.”
They also noted that the risk of death from other respiratory diseases was high in both young and old adults, but decreased significantly in those who were more exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos dust in old buildings is known to have an adverse effect on people’s health, especially when it comes to cardiovascular disease and respiratory diseases.
While the NIOSH study does not directly address whether exposure to old asbestos is linked to lung cancer or other chronic diseases, the authors noted that there are multiple studies showing that asbestos fibers have a strong correlation with these health outcomes.
“It is well known that the exposure of older people to asbestos is associated to a significant increase in the risk for lung cancer and cardiovascular disease,” the authors wrote.
“There is also growing evidence that exposure to low-density asbestos fibers in old homes may be associated to the development of type 2 diabetics.”
The study also found that the higher the amount of asbestos dust in an old building, the greater the risk that workers could become exposed to the harmful substance.
“This finding supports the conclusion that asbestos may be a risk factor for many chronic conditions that are associated with asbestos exposure,” the study authors wrote, adding that there was “little or no information available on the extent of the risk.”
The authors said they hope to release more research into the health risks of asbestos in the coming years.
They also suggested that asbestos products be reevaluated to make sure that the product complies with federal safety requirements.
“Given the high levels of asbestos found in old, vacant buildings and commercial facilities, it is important that companies consider the health implications of their asbestos products before they use them,” the researchers wrote.