This story is from Canada, but it could just as easily been from someone in California. Asbestos knows no boundaries. It drifts effortlessly on air currents, invisible and unnoticed, when suddenly it is inhaled by a future victim, who does not suspect they are a victim, until 20 or 30 years later, they have difficulty breathing.
For one man, it happened on a tour he was leading in Peru. At first, he thought it was the high altitude. But this was different, “It was like suffocating.” It was not the altitude; it was mesothelioma. He had inhaled the asbestos almost 30 earlier, when the building he worked in was being renovated and his office was next door to where asbestos was being removed.
Canada has been slow to restrict asbestos use because for years they had a substantial mining industry. And many people may believe that deaths from asbestos must be declining, since they believe most workers contracted the disease during the 1940s or 1950s.
Yet in the last 10 years, one province experienced a greater than 100 percent increased in occupational deaths due to mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-related diseases.
And 70 percent of the work-related cancers are a result of exposure to asbestos. All of these statistics are based on workers’ compensation-related data, so it is likely that these numbers underreport deaths and that the actual numbers are all greater, since these statistics only include successful workers’ compensation claims related to asbestos.
This news story examines other issues related to asbestos, such as where it was used, the effects of the disease and how this outcome was not accidental. It also explores that in Canada, government policy permits “safe and controlled use” of the mineral. Next week we will look at some more of those topics.
Source: The Globe and Mail, “NO SAFE USE,” Tavia Grant, June 13, 2014