Asbestos Exposure and Malignant Mesothelioma in Korea


Although importation of asbestos to Korea has decreased, there are growing concerns of its hazardous effects.This paper describes the use and occupational exposure to asbestos, and the incidence and mortality of malignantmesotheliomas in Korea. Asbestos raw material imports from other countries peaked between 1990 and 1995,but importation of asbestos-containing and -processed materials has steadily increased until now. Acomprehensive exposure survey was conducted in Korea between 1995 and 2006. The average airborne asbestosconcentration was lower than from other countries and steadily decreased during the study period. The numberof malignant mesothelioma cases in Korea was 48 in 1998, 39 in 1999, 45 in 2000, 38 in 2001, and 46 in 2002.There were 334 deaths due to malignant mesothelioma and an average of 30.4 deaths per year between 1996 and2006. The number of deaths attributed to malignant mesothelioma ranged from 16 cases in 1999 to 57 cases in2006. The magnitude of asbestos-related health problems in Korea has been underestimated due to underdiagnosis,incomplete reports, and shorter duration of exposure. A nationwide surveillance system for asbestosexposure and malignant mesothelioma should therefore be implemented.