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Report: High Incidence of Mesothelioma Among Shipbuilders

A new report released by Italian researchers provides further evidence to support the stance that shipbuilding trades between the 1940s and 1960s is strongly linked to later diagnoses of mesothelioma. harbor.jpg

Boston mesothelioma lawyers know this isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news. However, shipbuilding companies and other defendants in mesothelioma cases have fought vigorously against the notion that they are responsible for the illnesses of their employees later in life. This is just one more example of why those companies are wrong.

The research, conducted by Italian researchers Claudio and Tommaso Bianchi from the Italian Center for the Study of Environmental Cancer, is entitled, “Shipbuilding and mesothelioma in Monfalcone, Italy” and it was published earlier this year in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Monfalcone is a small city in the Province of Gorizia, bordering on Slovenia and Croatia, about an hour northeast of Venice. The shipyards there first opened in 1908, and in the decades after, it became one of the largest shipbuilding operations in the Mediterranean region. At one point during the late 1930s and early 1940s, the workforce topped more than 6,000.

The shipyard business began to dwindle significantly after the 1960s, around the time when area hospitals noticed a large increase in cancer deaths – specifically, mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, which is known to have been widely used in shipyards across the world – including in the U.S.

The two scientists started by analyzing the records belonging to the Monfalcone shipyard, specifically the hiring rolls from 1942. They then compared those records to archived health records from nearby hospitals several decades later.

There were a total of approximately 2,775 people who were hired to work at the Monfalcone shipyards back in 1942.

The researchers then took a look at health records from the Pathological Anatomy Unit, which kept documents from the two area hospitals. Specifically, the pair were comparing those 1942 employment records to any documentation of mesothelioma between 1981 and 2005.

What they found was this:

Eighteen of the men who had been hired in 1942 were diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. A third of those who were diagnosed had been just 14 or 15 years-old at the time they were hired. This was despite the fact that those in this age group accounted for only a fourth of those hired during this time, suggesting that earlier exposure to asbestos may have been more fatal.

They analyzed necropsy findings in 14 of those cases, and found that the amount of asbestos bodies in the lungs varied a great deal, from 150 to 600,000 bodies per gram of dried tissue. What this goes to show is that no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. Even small amounts of the fibers can prove fatal later in life.

The researchers indicate that their study may grossly underestimate the number of shipyard workers who were later diagnosed with mesothelioma, as it is possible some of the individuals moved away later in life or may have died from the disease without having a formal diagnosis.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in New England, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Shipbuilding and mesothelioma in Monfalcone, Italy, April 2012, By Claudio Bianchi and Tommaso Bianchi, Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
More Blog Entries:
Asbestos Exposure Near Cement Factories Proves Lethal, Aug. 26, 2012, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog