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Preventing Chemical Accidents:  Understanding MSDS’s & Assessing Chemical Hazards

Factsheet #6

The Odds of Getting a Disease

A funny thing about humans is that while we have the same physical make-up, we’re also different.  If a large group of us gets a very large dose of a toxic chemical, not all of us will develop a disease.  But, we do know that such an exposure will give some of us a disease, and there is really no way of knowing who that might be.

For example, look at asbestos workers.  As a group, they run a high risk of dying from lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.  But not all asbestos workers get these diseases. The chart below shows just what the odds were for asbestos workers who died between 1967 and 1986.

* Fourteen to nineteen percent of these deaths could have been avoided if the workers had not been exposed to asbestos.  Source:  I.J. Selikoff, “The Third Wave of Asbestos Disease:  Exposure to

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