Background and objective: Although there are growing concerns about the global epidemic of asbestos-related diseases (ARD), the current status of asbestos use and ARD in Asia is elusive. We conducted a descriptive analysis of available data on asbestos use and ARD to characterize the current situation in Asia.
Methods: We used descriptive indicators of per capita asbestos use (kilograms per capita per year) and age-adjusted mortality rates (AAMR, persons per million population per year) by country and for the region, with reference to the world.
Results: The proportion of global asbestos use attributed to Asia has been steadily increasing over the years from 14% (1920–1970) to 33% (1971–2000) to 64% (2001–2007). This increase has been reflected in the absolute level of per capita use across a wide range of countries. In contrast, 12 882 ARD deaths have been recorded cumulatively in Asia, which is equivalent to only 13% of the cumulative number of ARD deaths in the world during the same period. The highest AAMR were recorded in Cyprus (4.8), Israel (3.7) and Japan (3.3), all of which have banned asbestos use.
Conclusions: There is a paucity of information concerning the current situation of ARD in Asia. The marked increase in asbestos use in Asia since 1970, however, is likely to trigger a surge of ARD in the immediate decades ahead.