The stringent industrial hygiene regulations that have been introduced in North America, Europe, and Australasia have led to a decline in the incidence and prevalence of silicosis, coal workers' pneumoconiosis, and asbestosis. Although new cases of asbestosis are not occurring, an appreciable number of mesotheliomata are still being diagnosed, and there has yet been little, if any, decline in the latter tumor. These new cases are nearly entirely due to exposure to amphiboles in the 1940s and 1950s. It is expected that by about the year 2000 the incidence of mesothelioma will begin to decrease in the United States and Canada. Meanwhile there is an undue preoccupation with more and more sensitive methods of detecting asbestosis, silicosis, and coal workers' pneumoconiosis, eg, magnetic resonance imaging, bronchoalveolar lavage, and so forth. Much effort is being made in trying to detect disease in groups of workers with extremely low exposures and no symptoms. Smaller and smaller effects are being detected, with the ultimate aim appearing to be detecting nothing at all. Efforts should be made at surveying other populations exposed to agents that have recently been introduced and that could conceivably have long-term effects.
© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.