Epidemiology of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma in Africa
Pp. 95-113 (19)
Gill Nelson and Jim teWaterNaude
Although asbestos was produced and consumed by many African countries
throughout most of the 20th century, the only producers of significant amounts were
South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. South Africa mined all three types of
commercially viable asbestos, viz. chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite, while the latter
two countries mined only chrysotile. South Africa was the global leader in the
production of crocidolite asbestos, the fibre most strongly linked with the development
of mesothelioma; and it was in this country that the link was first established and
reported in 1960. While sporadic case reports of mesothelioma have been published
from the continent, they are few and far between, and the only epidemiological studies
have been conducted in South Africa, showing that mesothelioma rates in the country
are amongst the highest in the world. The disease burden did not dissipate with the
closure of the crocidolite and amosite mines in the 1990s. South Africa has a legacy of
asbestos contamination in the form of mine tailings dumps and asbestos-containing
building materials and other products. As fibre, including South African crocidolite and
amosite, was widely exported from the three major asbestos-producing African
countries to the rest of Africa, so was the risk of mesothelioma. We can expect many
more people to suffer from this debilitating disease in future years.
Asbestos production, asbestos consumption, amosite, chrysotile,
crocidolite, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe.
School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, 27 St Andrews Rd, Parktown 2193, South Africa.