Many of the workers who have contracted asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma, were concentrated in industries like shipbuilding, pipefitting and electrical trades. There is sometimes an undercurrent in reporting or discussion of asbestos and mesothelioma that this is a problem from the past. Yes, during WWII and for the years afterward, many workers may have been exposed to the dangers of asbestos, but we have learned and today we know better.
Asbestos has been banned in many applications, and it is presumed much of the residual asbestos-containing products in the environment and diseases like mesothelioma are no longer a threat to workers. A story from Vancouver, Canada exposes that lie. It tells of a man who worked in the construction industry, and was described by his brother as “the toughest man I ever knew.”
He was very active and could do the work of three men. He had noticed some pain in his back, but did not consider it significant. One day, he found he could no longer jog home from his favorite coffee shop.
He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and in five months, he was dead. His employer had been cited for more than 250 violations for exposing workers to asbestos. The company had fines amounting to $280,000 for those violations.
In British Columbia, according to the Vancouver Sun, asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma is the leading occupational killer. His brother would like to see criminal charges filed against the company. He worries that younger workers are unaware of the asbestos threat posed by ceiling tile and other construction materials in old buildings.
Source: Vancouver Sun, “Deadly asbestos-related disease ‘heart-wrenching’ for families,” Gordon Hoekstra, February 26, 2013