If you’re living in southeastern China and are in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, you may have worked in the textile industry. It’s been a key industry in China for decades and China has been the largest producer and largest exporter of textile and clothing products in the world since the late 1990s- but little did you know that work could lead to a mesothelioma diagnosis.
In 2000, China ranked #1 for the textile and fabric shoe manufacturing industry, #2 for silk textile and finishing linen textile industry, and #3 for the hemp textile industry. By 2005, China’s #2 and #3 previous ranking moved up and hat manufacturing became #3.
In 2013, China exported $274 billion in textiles, almost seven times the amount that India, the second-largest exporter had exported. However, with recent trade wars, China is suffering from a decrease in the usual number of imports from the U.S. – and there have been a number of textile plants and clothing manufacturers closing, going bankrupt because U.S. buyers no longer purchase from China.
This may be bad for the businessmen but good for the workers and even those who may have been considering getting a job in the industry. Why? Because of the risk of malignant mesothelioma diagnosis that comes from the exposure to chrysotile fibers.
China’s Asbestos History
China consumes the most asbestos in the world and is also the second-largest producer of asbestos in the world. The majority of the asbestos used in China is chrysotile. But unfortunately, there is no nationwide mesothelioma diagnosis register in the country, so no one knows how many cases of mesothelioma occur in Chinese people annually. Between the years 1994 and 2008, there were only 5107 cases reported but health experts fear that this number is seriously underreported.
China began processing asbestos in the late 1950s, producing about 4200 tons annually during the 1960s. The industry grew fast in the 1970s and 80s until about 2013, reaching a peak of 7800 tons annually during the 1980s and falling to only 3000 tons during the years 2000 until 2009.
Chrysotile has been used by the textile industry in China for many years. Chrysotile is the most frequently produced and used type of asbestos. Amosite and crocidolite are not used in the textile industry because they have poor textile properties. The World Health Organization estimates that 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in their occupations, often leading to a mesothelioma diagnosis.
What Studies Have Shown About Chrysotile Exposure and Mesothelioma Diagnosis
In one study of a chrysotile textile plant in Quebec, researchers calculated there were 2.7 cases of mesothelioma per 100,000 people-years from 2008-2012. In another study, there was a 2.5 times higher risk of mesothelioma diagnosis in employees working right in the heart of the chrysotile mines.
The most shocking study was a cohort study on chrysotile textile workers, finding that male employees had a rate of mesothelioma diagnosis 33 times normal while the rate in females was 167 times normal; normal meaning the general population. The problem with these numbers is that the sample size of the cohort was too small.
In 2018, doctors and researchers at the Provincial People’s Hospital and Yuyao People’s Hospital in China along with the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences in China and the Department of Asbestos-Related Health Damage Relief in Japan collaborated their efforts and investigated 46 cases of mesothelioma in women in southeastern China. This is the location where the textile industry is prevalent in China.
The team was concerned about the hand-spinning work at the textile factory and wanted to know if it was exposing the female workers to chrysotile.
They found that hand-spinning chrysotile exposure was associated with a significantly elevated risk of mesothelioma diagnosis. The average age at diagnosis was 56 but the range was anywhere from 39 years up to 80 years. The time between first exposure and diagnosis was 24 years, with the range of anywhere between 21 and 50 years.
The asbestos experts assessed the estimated median number concentration of asbestos to be 8 fibers per milliliter for hand spinning at the manufacturing plants and 0.6 for hand spinning at home. Thus, it didn’t matter where the hand spinning was done; both sets of workers were still exposed to the asbestos. The median age of when the exposure started was 20.5 years for hand spinning at plants and 20 years for hand spinning at home; similar in both groups.
Their data suggested that the greater the length of time the person worked at hand-spinning, the greater the risk of developing mesothelioma and that it was a true health hazard to work with the yarn containing chrysotile. They concluded that chrysotile exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma diagnosis in southeast China.
The women who were diagnosed with mesothelioma from hand spinning generally had peritoneal mesothelioma. And 80% of the mesothelioma cases in this study were women, which is very much different than other studies of a primarily male population. Usually, other studies have a patient population of 87% men, 13% women.
So what does someone do with all this new information? Do they start an association to try to ban the use of asbestos in the whole textile industry? Perhaps if you’re a doctor treating mesothelioma, you simply take note of the connection between hand spinning in China so that you could identify the possibility of mesothelioma if your new patient has symptoms that don’t fit any other disorders.
If you have a mesothelioma diagnosis and require legal assistance, please contact a mesothelioma lawyer today.
Jiang, Z., et al. Hand-spinning chrysotile exposure and risk of malignant mesothelioma: A case control study in Southeastern China. Int J Cancer 2018 Feb 1;142(3):514-523. Doi:10.1002/ijc.31077. Epub 2017 Oct 10. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/ijc.31077
Gao, Z., et al. Asbestos textile production linked to malignant peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma in women: Analysis of 28 cases in Southeast China. Am J Ind Med 2015 Oct;58(10):1040-9. Doi:10.1002/ajim.22494. Epub 2015 Jul 6.
Lin, Hui-Lin; Li, Hsiao-Yun; and Yang, Chih-Hai. Agglomeration and productivity: firm-level evidence from China’s textile industry. Pdf accessed online.
Latest Figures from China’s Textile Industry Reported at Intertextile Apparel Round Table. Dec. 2, 2019. Textile World. Accessed online Jan. 28, 2020. https://www.textileworld.com/textile-world/2019/12/latest-figures-from-chinas-textile-industry-reported-at-intertextile-apparel-round-table/
Ru, Yi. China’s Textile and Garment Industry is in Deep Trouble. Foreign trade stagnant and domestic demand weak. The Epoch Times, June 23, 2019. Accessed online Jan. 28, 2020. https://www.theepochtimes.com/chinas-textile-and-garment-industry-is-in-deep-trouble_2975420.html