Canadians dying of mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused mainly by workplace exposure to asbestos, rose 60 per cent between 2000 and 2012, according to Statistics Canada.
This represents an increase in deaths from 292 in 2000 to 467 in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.
Though alarming, these figures likely represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of asbestos-related carnage. In fact, Paul Demers, director of the Ontario-based Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC), offers that asbestos may be responsible for at least 2,000 new cancers each year in Canada, mostly fatal
Affected workers and others are often unaware their illness was caused by workplace and environmental exposure decades earlier. For asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis
, the time between initial exposure and diagnosis can range from 10 to 50 years.
Now consider the use of asbestos peaked in the 1970s and continued into the 1980s, it’s no surprise we are in the midst of an asbestos-related epidemic of death and suffering.
Workers, their representatives and others did mobilize over the years to make legislative and workplace gains to help control exposure. Many manufacturers were also motivated to end or limit use and exposure to asbestos in order to limit legal liability.
Nonetheless, according to CAREX Canada risk continues today for more than 150,000 Canadians exposed to asbestos at work—50,000 here in Ontario
. Much of this risk is from work involving renovation, maintenance, removal and general deterioration of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in buildings constructed prior to 1990. Though, some risk relates to the fact the Canadian government continues to allow the importing and use of products containing asbestos including brake pads and cement pipes.
The movement to convince the Canadian government to completely ban importing, exporting and use of any ACMs continues
. To date, more than 50 countries, including Japan, Australia and Britain, have banned the import and export of asbestos and ACMs.
For our part, the Workers Health and Safety Centre offers Asbestos awareness training to help workplace parties better understand this deadly hazard, related safety legislation and means for controlling and tracking exposure.
Want to know more about WHSC Asbestos training and how the WHSC can help workplace parties better understand their extensive duties under health and safety law including asbestos removal and training obligations?
Call: 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training service representative, or
Want to read the WHSC’s recently updated Asbestos: towards zero exposure