Asbestos related diseases in Italy: an integrated approach to identify unexpected professional or environmental exposure risks at municipal level

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. 2007 Dec 20 [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Marinaccio A, Scarselli A, Binazzi A, Altavista P, Belli S, Mastrantonio M, Pasetto R, Uccelli R, Comba P.

Epidemiology Unit, Department of Occupational Medicine, Italian National Institute for Occupational Safety and Prevention, Via Alessandria 220/E, 00198, Rome, Italy,


Purpose: Past intensive use of asbestos has implied severe public health consequences. Spatial distribution of deaths from malignant mesothelioma and of compensated cases for asbestos related diseases in Italy were compared to identify unexpected sources of asbestos exposure.

Methods: Mortality for malignant mesothelioma at municipal level and geographical clusters of compensated cases for asbestos related diseases, as proxy of industrial asbestos exposure, were identified in the period 1988–2001.

Results: Municipalities with at least four mesothelioma deaths and a statistically significant mortality excess were 148; and 53 out of them had no compensated case for asbestos-related diseases. Finally 22 of these lay outside of any aforementioned cluster, thus suggestive of a possible unrecognized exposure.

Conclusions: Availability long-term national figures and the different etiology of asbestos related diseases are the key features of this exercise that was applied to Italy, but can be replicated wherever registration systems of diseases related to long term exposure to asbestos are available.

Keywords: Malignant mesothelioma, Asbestosis, Asbestos exposures, Mortality, Spatial distribution, Italy