There once was an asbestos factory in the small town of Casale Monferrato in northwest Italy, known by its townspeople as the “factory of cancer”. At one time or another, most residents of Casale Monferrato worked in this asbestos factory. It was built in 1900 and continued in operation for many decades. In this very small town, the incidence of mesothelioma is about 16 times greater than that found in the rest of the country. It is anticipated that there will be a further increase in the incidence of mesothelioma up to 2020.
The factory workers and their families, as well as the rest of the town’s population, were exposed to asbestos from the Eternit Factory. Although work at the factory stopped in the 1980s, Dr. Giovanni Gaudino says that they “have huge environmental exposure to asbestos fibers. We are expecting, sadly, a high number of [mesothelioma] cases because of the long latency period for asbestos disease to develop.” Thus, it was very fitting that Dr. Gaudino, who is a dedicated mesothelioma researcher, would continue to follow the incidence of disease in this population. The Hospital of Casale Monferrato is included among several institutions participating in the Italian clinical trial involving use of the combination drug therapy of Gleevac and Gemcitabine.
While the sale of asbestos-containing products has been essentially banned in the United States since 1978, asbestos is still in use in much of the world today, with tragic consequences. As he spoke to attorneys from the Galiher law firm, Dr. Gaudino explained that mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases are a worldwide problem. Due to the widespread use of asbestos all over the world, asbestos cancer has become a truly international problem. Many thousands of cases are expected in the next several years, not only in Italy, but also in Europe, the United States, Australia and other parts of the western world. Dr. Gaudino believes that asbestos disease “is a huge problem for society because there are many thousands of cases expected in the years ahead.” He refers to the phenomenon as “the European mesothelioma epidemic.”
Like in Casale Monferrato, Dr. Gaudino notes that there are workers all over the world “who are much exposed to fibers.” He also noted that there are often children who live nearby, and they are often “playing… close to these materials.”
While factories have been closed in Europe and the United States, they have moved to India and other emerging countries. A high incidence of mesothelioma cases is expected around the world, especially in the emerging countries, where asbestos is still legal and is still being used. This will lead to an “even worse world ‘epidemic.’”