The Case of Asbestos-Exposed Workers: A Psychological Evaluation
Approximately 13.2 million workers were occupationally exposed to asbestos from 1940 to 1980. Extensive exposure to asbestos occurred among shipyard workers during World War II when large quantities of asbestos were used, with an exposure of about 4.5 million people. The medical evidence that has accumulated during this century clearly indicates that inhalation of asbestos fibers leads to various severe and debilitating pulmonary diseases. Longitudinal epidemiological studies of cohorts of asbestos insulation workers and shipyard workers have revealed that 19% of those with substantial exposure to asbestos die of lung cancer. A comprehensive psychological study has been undertaken to document the psychological adaptation and compliance behavior of individuals with well documented increased medical risk status due to asbestos exposure. The asbestos workers who have been evaluated are constantly reminded of their risk from friends and coworkers dying, the public media, medical surveillance exams, union reports, and research projects.