40 Asbestos Facts & Statistics

When it was first discovered, asbestos was a miracle material. Thanks to its heat-resistance, strength and flexibility, it was used in many products around the world. That is, until a landmark study in 1964 first established the link between asbestos and disease.

Today we know that all forms of asbestos are carcinogens, meaning they cause cancer and other diseases. Asbestos facts are fascinating and important, especially for workers and others who might have been exposed to it. Here’s what you need to know.

Facts About Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in mountainous areas throughout the world. Here are the top asbestos facts:

  1. There are six types of asbestos. The most popular is chrysotile, which is very flexible and has high resistance to tension and heat.
  2. In the U.S., large deposits of chrysotile are found in the Appalachian Mountains and Northern California.
  3. Asbestos breaks down into microscopic fibers that can be inhaled when released into the air. These fibers embed in the lungs and cause disease.
  4. Asbestos was used in many products, especially construction materials, cement, insulation, brakes and plastics.
  5. In the U.S., there were asbestos mines in Alaska, Arizona, California, Vermont and Libby, Montana.

Facts About Asbestos Use

Use of asbestos in the U.S. began in the early 1900s, but it was the booming economy after World War II that used the most asbestos. After it was linked to disease, asbestos use in the U.S. fell, but continues in developing countries. Read on for some interesting asbestos statistics on usage:

  1. Today, ten countries use 95% of global asbestos: India, China, Russia, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
  2. The U.S. used an average of 48% of the world’s asbestos from 1920 through 1960.
  3. After asbestos regulations were implemented, imports fell to an average of 11,668 metric tons per year in the 1990s and 5,147 metric tons in the 2000s.
  4. In 2020, the U.S. imported just 305 metric tons of asbestos, compared to a peak of 718,000 metric tons in 1973.
  5. The chloralkali industry, which uses asbestos to make chlorine, has used 100% of domestic asbestos fiber since 2015.
  6. The U.S. still imports some products containing asbestos, including brake blocks for the oil industry, gaskets in certain vehicles and rubber sheets used to produce titanium dioxide.

Asbestos Production Facts

Asbestos is not banned in the U.S., but it is heavily regulated. Production of asbestos has steadily declined since 1976, when the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulated its use. These are the top asbestos facts about production:

  1. Asbestos production in the U.S. peaked in 1973, at 136,000 metric tons. Production fell steadily from the late 1970s onwards.
  2. The year 2002 was the last year the U.S. produced any asbestos, at 2,720 metric tons.
  3. Global production of asbestos has also been falling but stood at 1.1 million metric tons in 2020. That’s compared to a global peak of 4.79 million metric tons in 1977.
  4. Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Zimbabwe are the largest producers of asbestos in the world.

Asbestos Exposure Statistics

By the time the global community discovered asbestos was dangerous, hundreds of millions of people had been exposed. Workers in certain industries have the highest chance of exposure, along with their immediate family members and communities near asbestos mines. Here’s what you need to know about these asbestos statistics:

  1. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at work each year.
  2. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimated that 1.3 million U.S. workers in construction and general industry are currently exposed to high amounts of asbestos.
  3. The highest-risk occupations used to be textile mills, friction-product manufacturing and cement-pipe fabrication.
  4. Today, the highest risk of asbestos exposure comes from maintaining, renovating or remodeling buildings that contain asbestos.

Facts About Asbestos-Related Disease

IARC has concluded that asbestos causes lung cancer and mesothelioma, and that it’s linked to numerous other cancers, including ovarian, laryngeal, pharynx and stomach. It’s also linked to many non-cancerous diseases, like asbestosis. These links are widely studied, so there are plenty of facts about asbestos-related diseases.


Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive cancer of the lungs, abdomen, heart and testes that’s caused solely by asbestos exposure. Thousands of people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the U.S. each year. The CDC has published the following asbestos facts regarding mesothelioma:

  1. It typically takes 20 to 40 years from exposure for mesothelioma to develop, but can take up to 71 years.
  2. From 1999 to 2015, a total of 45,221 malignant mesothelioma deaths were reported, and deaths increased 4.8% during that time period.
  3. Insulation workers, chemical technicians and plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters had the highest mortality rates.
  4. Mesothelioma continues to affect people younger than 55 years old, which means asbestos exposure still occurs today, despite regulation.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the U.S. Unlike mesothelioma, lung cancer can have multiple contributing factors, making it hard to tell exactly how much lung cancer is caused by asbestos exposure.

  1. Most types of asbestos kill at least twice as many people through lung cancer than through mesothelioma.
  2. Lung cancer accounts for between 54% and 75% of all cancer that results from occupational hazards.
  3. Exposure at work causes between 17% and 29% of all lung cancer deaths.
  4. Asbestos exposure is responsible for between 55% and 85% of lung cancer, and also causes other cancers and asbestos-related diseases.


Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and scarring in the lung tissue and is an underlying cause of death due to heart or respiratory failure. It’s also related to other asbestos diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and pleural disease, which is a thickening of the lining in the lungs. Studies have found that:

  1. Asbestosis causes about 3,400 deaths globally each year, and the number of cases increased 116.6% between 1990 and 2017.
  2. The severity is determined by exposure: Longer exposure increases the chance of developing asbestosis. Inhaling longer fibers is also more likely to cause it.
  3. Early intervention and treatment is key to prolonging survival.

Asbestos Death Statistics

Because related diseases take so long to develop and many can be influenced by other factors, it’s difficult to determine exact asbestos death statistics. Here’s what we know.

  1. Asbestos causes about 255,000 deaths per year globally. Work-related exposure is responsible for 233,000 of those.
  2. In one study of an asbestos-exposed community, nearly 31% died from asbestos-related causes.
  3. 55% of those deaths were from mesothelioma, 18.5% were from lung cancer and 23% were from chronic lung diseases like fibrosis and pleural thickening.
  4. Men were more likely than women to die from asbestos-related causes.

Facts About Asbestos Lawsuits

After asbestos was linked to health issues, many companies chose profits over people and did not protect their workers. These choices have cost them: asbestos lawsuits have been the longest-running mass tort litigation (a case where many people are harmed by the same product) in history. Many companies filed for bankruptcy and were forced to create asbestos trusts for victims. The asbestos statistics on lawsuits are stunning:

  1. The number of asbestos trusts increased from 16 with a total of $4.2 billion in assets in 2000 to 60 with a total of $36.8 billion in assets in 2011.
  2. Trusts paid about 3.3 million claims valued at $17.5 billion from 1988 to 2010.
  3. Defendants and insurance companies spent about $70 billion on asbestos lawsuits, just through the year 2002.
  4. Through the same year, about 730,000 people brought asbestos-related claims against businesses.
  5. Forecasts of future asbestos claims estimate we’ve only seen about 20% to 30% of the total claims that will be filed.
  6. Asbestos compensation varies widely by disease. Victims with pleural disease generally get about $20,000 to $40,000. Asbestosis sufferers can get $50,000 to $100,000. Mesothelioma victims and their families could recover up to $15 million or more.

At Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen, our attorneys have decades of experience with mesothelioma cases. We understand the challenges patients and families face, and we’ll fight for the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with a related disease, you may have legal options. Contact us today for a case evaluation from one of our caring, compassionate advocates.

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Request a free case evaluation now if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The evaluation will cost you nothing. Our lawyers will travel to visit you at your convenience or conference call with you over the phone. We understand how difficult a time this is for you and will assist in any way that we can. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-336-0086 at any time.