New research on childhood exposure to asbestos

A new study into the children of Wittenoom has revealed that they have an increased risk of succumbing to asbestos-related disease later in life.

The study was undertaken by a research team at the WA Institute of Health under the leadership of Associate Professor Alison Reid. The team, which includes Professors Bill Musk and Nick de Klerk, has spent many years tracking the patterns of asbestos disease in the community.

Their latest research has focused on the children who lived in Wittenoom when it was an active asbestos mining town (from 1947 until 1993). As a consequence they were exposed to blue asbestos in their early years.

The researchers identified a cohort of 2483 people who had lived at Wittenoom as children.

Following up these people in later life both males and females were found to have an elevated risk of cancer, in particular mesothelioma.  In women the common cancers were mesothelioma, ovarian and brain cancers.

In men the common cancers were mesothelioma, leukemia, prostate, brain and colorectal cancers. Both men and women had increased mortality rates compared to the general population.

As a result of this study, the first to look at cancer incidence and mortality in adults exposed to asbestos as children, the researchers conclude that early life exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of cancer later in life.

‘All-Cause Mortality and Cancer Incidence Among Adults Exposed to Blue Asbestos
During Childhood’

Authors: Alison Reid, , Peter Franklin, Nola Olsen, Jan Sleith, Latha Samuel, Patrick Aboagye-Sarfo, Nicholas de Klerk, and A.W. (Bill) Musk

American Journal of Industrial Medicine, DOI10.1002/ajim.22103. Published online in Wiley Online Library (