15 American States Had More than 100,000 Asbestos Deaths in 15 Years

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and asbestos is partly to blame. The building material was widely used for years, and though it was banned in many countries decades ago, it’s still around in the United States, according to The Architect’s Newspaper. Exposure to asbestos particles can lead to mesothelioma in the lungs and other lung cancers, but there is no safe level of exposure, and more than 107,000 people die each year from exposure-related diseases, according to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. These American states had thousands of asbestos deaths from 1999 to 2013, and they combined for more than 100,000 deaths. (We suspect a couple of factors come into play at No. 8 on the countdown).

15. Minnesota


Minnesota has almost as many asbestos deaths as more populous states. | AndreyKrav/iStock/Getty Images

Deaths: 4,852

Population: 5.57 million

We start our countdown in Minnesota, which is the least-populous state on our list but still has its fair share of asbestos deaths. Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis and suburbs such as Bloomington, Edina, and Minnetonka, accounted for 864 of the state’s deaths.

Next: It’s hard to escape lung cancer in this state.

14. North Carolina

Welcome to North Carolina

Lung cancer rates, whether or not asbestos is at fault, are high in North Carolina. | fotoguy22/iStock/Getty Images

Deaths: 5,153

Population: 10.2 million

The Tarheel State is among the states where the most people are diagnosed with lung cancer, which isn’t too shocking. Tobacco is big business in North Carolina, and the government’s tobacco policy is one of the worst around. Thousands of mining and manufacturing workers were exposed to asbestos over the years, which why the state had more than 5,000 deaths over 15 years.

Next: One area of the state leads the way in asbestos deaths.

13. Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The area around Milwaukee is responsible for many of Wisconsin’s asbestos deaths. | Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Deaths: 5,305

Population: 5.79 million

One area of Wisconsin is ground central for the state’s 5,300-plus asbestos deaths. Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Kenosha Counties in the southeast corner Wisconsin accounted for 1,597 of those asbestos-related fatalities.

Next: One occupation might help this state make our list.

12. Massachusetts

Abestos, ship, Platinum II

The shipbuilding industry contributes to Massachusetts’ asbestos deaths. | Getty Images Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

Deaths: 6,388

Population: 6.85 million

Auto mechanics and construction workers have higher cancer risks thanks to the products they use at work, including asbestos. The same goes for shipbuilding, which is a big industry in Massachusetts. As a heat-resistant insulator, asbestos is freely used by shipbuilders, which is one reason The Bay State has so many asbestos deaths.

Next: We’re heading down the Atlantic coast.

11. Virginia

Staff removing some asbestos in a post of transformer

Asbestos removal is not a job to take lightly. | iStock.com/bermau

Deaths: 6,452

Population: 8.47 million

Similar to Massachusetts, the state we just visited, Virginia’s industrial business are partly to blame for the asbestos deaths. Shipbuilding, mining, milling, and oil refining are all prevalent in Virginia, and all used asbestos freely before it was more tightly regulated.

Next: Look past the big companies in this next location.

10. Washington

Tacoma Washington and Mount Rainier

Washington’s paper mills contain asbestos. | gmc3101/iStock/Getty Images

Deaths: 7,244

Population: 7.40 million

Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing are some of the biggest companies in Washington, but you have to look past them to see why it has so many asbestos deaths. Paper production is one of the biggest industries in the state, and for years, mills were ground central for asbestos use, which is why there are so many resulting deaths.

Next: Heavy manufacturing puts this state in the top 10.

9. Michigan

Workers leave the Detroit Ford Motor works circa 1930

Ford Motor factory workers in 1930s Detroit probably inhaled asbestos. | Fox Photos/ Getty Images

Deaths: 7,878

Population: 9.96 million

As we’ve mentioned, factory workers tend to have more asbestos exposure than other professions, and as the longtime center of the U.S. auto industry, Michigan falls into that category. Car brake linings and clutches still contain asbestos because of its heat resistance, so auto workers have more exposure than most. Wayne County, home to Detroit, and neighboring Macomb and Oakland Counties combined for more than 2,400 of Michigan’s 7,878 asbestos deaths.

Next: Two key factors put this state on the list.

8. New Jersey

boat in water

New Jersey’s heavy industry and population density contribute to its asbestos issues. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Deaths: 9,395

Population: 9 million

When you look at New Jersey, there are two key reasons it tallied so many asbestos deaths from 1999 to 2013. First, manufacturing is a key part of the economy, and thousands of people work in factories across the state. Second, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S., so people are living closer to factories with asbestos than they are in other places.

Next: A state where it’s tough to breathe.

7. Illinois

Pollution, nuclear, Illinois

The air in Illinois is bad enough before you throw asbestos into the mix. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Deaths: 9,720

Population: 12.8 million

People who love clean air have it tough in the Land of Lincoln. First, it’s one of the most polluted states in the U.S., and the air quality is particularly poor. Plus, old school buildings with asbestos scattered around the state and nearly 70 contaminated Superfund sites are prevalent. One of the Superfund sites, the Johns-Manville site in Waukegan, is a 150-acre area used solely for asbestos disposal.

Next: No surprise seeing this state make our list.

6. Ohio

Cincinnati downtown early in the night

Cincinnati is a hotspot for Ohio’s asbestos-related deaths. | AndreyKrav/iStock/Getty Images

Deaths: 9,960

Population: 11.6 million

Ohio neared 10,000 asbestos deaths from 1999 to 2013, and it’s not all that surprising seeing it make the list. Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo all house industries that manufacture asbestos, or use it in the products they make, according to The Mesothelioma Center. The areas around those three cities are hotspots for Ohio’s asbestos-related deaths.

Next: The remaining states all have more than 10,000 deaths.

5. Texas

Flare stacks at a petroleum refinery in Port Arthur, Texas

Texas’ oil industry contributes to its number of asbestos deaths. | Rex Wholster/iStock/Getty Images

Deaths: 11,905

Population: 28.3 million

As a hub for oil refining and shipping, a long list of industries in Texas use asbestos, and the number of deaths shows it. Asbestos is ideal for withstanding the heat that comes along with shipbuilding and oil refining, which is one reason The Lone Star State has so many deaths. The counties housing Dallas and Houston, as well as Jefferson County, an oil refining hub along the border with Louisiana, accounted for nearly 3,000 deaths in 15 years.

Next: A state closely tied to asbestos’ rise — and fall.

4. New York

Woman in mask fears asbestos fibers in New York City

Many New York City residents wore masks after Sept. 11 to avoid asbestos fibers. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Deaths: 12,146

Population: 19.8 million

New York’s power plants, factories, and shipyards kept asbestos in high demand for years, and thousands of workers were potentially exposed to the mineral. When fires or storms damage those industrial sites or when they are demolished, a new set of workers are exposed. The Empire State tallied 12,146 asbestos-related deaths over 15 years, but one of its residents helped stop its use. Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Dr. Irving Selikoff was one of the first to link asbestos exposure to severe health issues, according to The Mesothelioma Center.

Next: This state is similar to its neighbors.

3. Pennsylvania

Asbestos, keep out, asbestos deaths

You have to be careful when you’re around asbestos. | Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Deaths: 14,216

Population: 12.8 million

Like neighboring New Jersey, New York, and Ohio, Pennsylvania has a large industrial sector that includes oil refineries that use asbestos. It also has a pair of asbestos dump sites in Montgomery County north of Philadelphia. Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties in the southeast corner of the state, and Allegheny County (which includes Pittsburgh) account for more than 6,000 of The Keystone State’s asbestos deaths from 1999 to 2013.

Next: Asbestos is another danger in a state full of them.

2. Florida

Abestos dangers, asbestos deaths, New Orleans Katrina cleanup 2006

Cleaning up asbestos debris is a dangerous job. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Deaths: 14,248

Population: 20.9 million

In addition to having some of the deadliest American cities for pedestrians, there are several reasons Florida is the most hated state in the U.S. Even if you don’t count the number of asbestos deaths as a reason to hate Florida, they are reason enough to be leery. Ten counties scattered around the state suffered 500 or more asbestos-related deaths between 1999 and 2013.

Next: No. 1 by a wide margin.

1. California

Highway 1 running along California's Pacific coast

California is pretty, but it has tons of naturally occurring asbestos deposits. | AlizadaStudios/iStock/Getty Images

Deaths: 21,338

Population: 39.5 million

California has a habit of slapping cancer warning labels on almost everything, but residents should be genuinely concerned about asbestos. The Golden State has two mines and an asbestos dump site within its borders, and 45 of 58 counties have naturally occurring deposits, according to the EPA. However, nearly one-third of the state’s asbestos deaths from 1999 to 2013 happened in Los Angeles and San Diego Counties.

All death figures courtesy of Asbestos Nation. Population figures are 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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