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Asbestos cancer cases to peak in 2045

Korea predicts a surge in number of asbestos exposure victims: experts

The number of people suffering from malignant mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos is expected to peak in 2045, the Ministry of Environment said in a report Sunday.

Comparing the trends of asbestos use and patients in Korea, the Netherlands and Japan in the report, the ministry estimated that Korea has entered the stage where the number of patients suffering from asbestos-related conditions is set to increase.

The number is expected to increase until 2045, given the incubation period of 10 to 30 years and a related regulation to be implemented next year.

Malignant mesothelioma is an uncommon form of cancer that affects the mesothelium or lining covering several internal organs. Exposure to asbestos is largely responsible for the development of mesothelioma.

The report said that the number of mesothelioma patients registered at medical facilities jumped from 61 in 1996 to 152 in 2007. The number of deaths from asbestos exposure also increased from 24 in 2001 to 57 in 2006.

“It seems that Korea has just started seeing a surge in the number of victims to asbestos exposure. In Japan, the increase started in early 2000 and is expected to peak around 2030. In the Netherlands, industrialization using the cancer-causing material began earlier than the other two countries. The prevalence is forecast to rise to the highest level in 2017,” researchers said in the report.

The Dutch government has regulated the use of asbestos since 1991 while in Japan, the use of the material was banned in 2005.

In Korea, a new law regulating against asbestos use will take effect from April next year. The National Institute of Environment Research expects the law to prevent up to 20,000 asbestos-related deaths over the next 50 years.

“The asbestos regulation is expected to give society benefits worth up to 10.3 trillion won. The nation has to pay the cost (of removing asbestos) before getting benefits, but considering that asbestos damage will peak in 30 years, the regulation from next year has more merits than demerits,” the institute said in a report.

By Bae Ji-sook (
Korea Herald Youtube