Greek report reviews asbestos exposure, mesothelioma epidemic three decades laterMany mesothelioma patients have a history of occupational asbestos exposure, but occasionally individuals with the disease encounter the noxious material in a different way. A case in point is the use of "luto," an asbestos-containing whitewash used extensively in households in the Greek prefecture of Ioannina until 1990 or so.
A new study published in the European Respiratory Journal explained the extensive asbestos exposure incurred by people in this area, as well as the extremely high rate of malignant mesothelioma measured in the region.
Residents of Ioannina almost universally painted their houses' interiors with luto until the 1950s, when its use began to decline. However, the asbestos-loaded whitewash was not totally discontinued until around 1990.
The reason for its abandonment was the discovery, in 1987, of a Ioannina-area village with a mesothelioma rate 300 times higher than the national average. Subsequent tests indicated that prolonged asbestos exposure had caused an explosion of mesothelioma cases.
After discontinuing the use of luto, the village's rate of mesothelioma dropped by one-third in five years. The authors estimated that at this rate, the area's mesothelioma epidemic will abate by 2030 at the latest. Similar spikes in the disease have been recorded in Turkey, Cyprus and Corsica, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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