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Eur J Epidemiol. 2000 May;16(5):411-7.

Environmental exposure to asbestos and risk of pleural mesothelioma: review and meta-analysis.

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Unit of Environmental Cancer Epidemiology, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.


A number of epidemiological studies have addressed the risk of pleural mesothelioma from environmental (household and neighborhood) exposure to asbestos, but no overall risk estimate is available. We reviewed the epidemiological studies on risk of pleural mesothelioma and household or neighborhood exposure to asbestos. We identified eight relevant studies; most were conducted in populations with relatively high exposure levels. We combined the risk estimates in a meta-analysis based on the random-effects model. The relative risks (RRs) of pleural mesothelioma for household exposure ranged between 4.0 and 23.7, and the summary risk estimate was 8.1 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.3-12). For neighborhood exposure, RRs ranged between 5.1 and 9.3 (with a single RR of 0.2) and the summary estimate was 7.0 (95% CI: 4.7-11). This review suggests a substantial increase in risk of pleural mesothelioma following high environmental exposure to asbestos; however, the available data are insufficient to estimate the magnitude of the excess risk at the levels of environmental exposure commonly encountered by the general population in industrial countries.

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