Asbestosis surveillance

Proportion of asbestosis cases identified by data source, BC

In brief

  • Asbestosis is a progressive fibrotic lung disease caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres.
  • It has one of the highest mortality rates of all occupational diseases in BC, and it represents a high financial cost to the compensation system.
  • We used accepted workers’ compensation claims, in-patient hospitalizations, and outpatient visits to physicians to estimate the incidence of asbestosis in the BC population over time and by demographic, occupational, and geographic characteristics.
  • We found that the most common industries of exposure for workers’ compensation asbestosis claims were related to construction, followed by ship building, smelting, and pulp and paper.
  • From 1992 to 2004, workers’ compensation claim rates for asbestosis remained stable or dropped relative to an increase in the rate of asbestosis as measured by medical services records.
  • No single data source was sufficient to identify all new cases of asbestosis; therefore, the true burden of the disease in BC is likely seriously underestimated.
  • In fact, only 3% of the 1,170 new asbestosis cases we identified were recorded in all three data sources. One quarter of the cases were identified in the workers’ compensation records, a further one third of cases were found only in the hospitalization database, and another third in the medical services database.

Related publications

The Burden of Asbestos-Related Disease in British Columbia: Final Workshop Report

Report [PDF: 206 KB]
WorkSafeBC-CHSPR Research Partnership. Vancouver, BC: Centre for Health Services and Policy Research; 2011.

Population-based asbestosis surveillance in British Columbia

Journal article
Gan W, Demers P, McLeod C, Koehoorn M. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2009;66:766-771.

Contact: Chris McLeod

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