Asbestos related mortality in Northern Ireland: 1985-1994

D. O'Reilly*, J. Reid, R. Middleton, A. T. Gavin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background. The association between Belfast and research into the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure goes back many years. This paper aims to update previous papers and review the burden of asbestos related disease in Northern Ireland today. Methods. A study was carried out of all deaths in Northern Ireland between 1985 and 1994 inclusive, in which an asbestos related disease was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate. Results. During this 10 year period, 527 asbestos related deaths were recorded; 88 per cent of these were in men. A total of 410 (77.8 per cent) were registered as the primary cause of death but only 405 (76.9 per cent) of cases were the subject of an autopsy. Standardized rates of pleural cancer in males have been increasing at 3.2 per cent per year though the trend was not significant. Lower rates in the last two years may herald the commencement of a decline. Deaths were clustered around the Belfast estuary, the site of Northern Ireland's shipbuilding industry. High proportional mortality ratios were demonstrated for occupations associated with the shipbuilding and construction industries. Evidence is presented that casts doubt on the attribution of peritoneal cancers in females to asbestos exposure. If lung cancers are included, there may be an average of 81 asbestos related deaths in Northern Ireland every year. Conclusion. Asbestos related diseases continue to extract a heavy burden of ill health in Northern Ireland today. There are some indications that the upward trend may be on the wane but confirmation of this will have to await further data. Measures to reduce exposure in the workplace to both asbestos and to tobacco smoke are the only means of reducing this burden.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-101
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Public Health Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 1999


  • Asbestos
  • Asbestosis
  • Mesothelioma
  • Peritoneal cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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