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Higher than Average Asbestos-Related Deaths in Western New York

Posted on: December 18th, 2015 by William Connelly

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund, a national environmental group, found that there are three counties in Western New York that have a much higher than average number of deaths related to asbestos. They were provided with death reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and they also used international studies on lung cancer deaths.

In their findings, they discovered that from 1999-2013, the yearly death rate from asbestos-related illnesses in Niagara County was 14.5 per 100,000. Since the entire population of the county is 215,000, there are approximately 31 residents in the county who die from an asbestos-related illness each year.

In New York, the average number of deaths related to asbestos is 4.4 out of 100,000 and the national average is 4.9 per 100,000 people. In Cattaraugus County, the yearly asbestos death rate was 11.6 per 100,000 for that same 15 year time frame and in Erie County, there was 8.1 deaths per 100,000 residents. The report stated that there were 9 residents who passed away from an asbestos-related illness each year in Cattaraugus County and there were 75 residents each year in Erie County. Niagara County has the highest death rate in the state and comes in 57th out of all of the counties across the country.

Paul R. Dicky, the environmental health director from Niagara County stated, “I’m surprised they’re reporting this county, although historically, we have a lot of industry. Asbestos products could have been very common in boiler rooms and places like that.”

These figures were established by looking at official death reports that detailed the deaths associated with mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos and by the deaths associated with lung disease, which can also be caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.

The report also looked at the deaths caused by lung cancer, and the environmental group believes a portion of those deaths were caused by exposure to asbestos. When there is a fatal case of lung cancer, the suspected cause is rarely if ever declared on the death certificate. Typically, the main cause of lung cancer is smoking, but Sonya Lunder of the Environmental Working Group said there can be additional causes of it as well.
In a report in 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is a unit of the World Health Organization, found that there are 3.2 to 4 lung cancer deaths that are caused by asbestos in the United States for every death that is caused by mesothelioma.

The report also states that in New York during that 15 year span from 1999-2013, there were 12,146 deaths caused by asbestos. Asbestos is an incredibly deadly and hazardous material that was commonly used in building materials because it was inexpensive and very resistant to heat. Exposure to asbestos has been known to lead to incredibly serious and often fatal illnesses, with mesothelioma being one of them. The latency period for asbestos-related illnesses is very long, so people may not realize that they are sick until many years after they were exposed to asbestos.

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