Asbestos workers: risk from heart disease

09:35 AEST Tue Apr 3 2012
AAP
Asbestos workers: risk from heart disease
Asbestos workers: risk from heart disease

Already facing heightened risks of cancer, asbestos workers also run a greater danger of heart disease and stroke.

British researchers looked into more than 15,000 deaths that occurred among nearly 99,000 workers in the UK asbestos industry between 1971 and 2005.

Almost 4,200 deaths were caused by heart disease and more than 1,000 by a stroke, particularly among women.

Male asbestos workers were 63 per cent likelier to die of a stroke and 39 per cent likelier to die of heart disease when compared with the general public, even when smoking was taken into account.

The corresponding figures for female asbestos workers were 100 per cent and 89 per cent.

The workers were part of a survey set up in 1971 to monitor the long-term health of people in the asbestos industry.

Most of the male workers had been employed in removing asbestos, and the female workers were generally employed in manufacturing that included asbestos.

The investigation, led by Anne-Helen Harding of Britain's Health and Safety Laboratory, appears in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Asbestos was widely used as a fire retardant until the late 20th century when it began to be outlawed for causing a form of cancer called mesothelioma and a lung disease called asbestosis.

Doctors have long wondered whether asbestos, as an inflammatory agent, is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

But the connection has until now never been clear, mainly because studies lacked information about whether an individual smoked.

Over half of the women in the new study were smokers at the time of their first medical examination, and these proportions were almost unchanged when they had their last assessment.

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