Workers Health & Safety Centre

Canadians pay dearly for work-related asbestos exposure

Workers removing asbestos
Cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by work-related asbestos exposure and diagnosed in 2011 will cost Canadians $1.9 billion. 
This data, published by the Toronto-based Institute for Work and Health (IWH), was drawn from an estimated total lifetime costs of 427 newly diagnosed cases of mesothelioma and 1,904 newly diagnosed cases of lung cancer. These cases, diagnosed in 2011 across Canada, were attributed to direct occupational exposure and indirect exposures including family members exposed as a result of fibres brought home on worker clothing.
The study considered costs in three areas—direct costs, indirect costs and quality of life costs. Direct costs included health care products and services along with family and community caregiver costs. Indirect costs took into consideration productivity and output losses relating to missed paid work. Quality of life costs considered the intrinsic value of health including loss of engagement at home and in the community.
Even these significant cost estimates are conservative, explained lead author of this study Dr. Emile Tompa, a health economist with the IWH. They don’t consider asbestosis and other illnesses caused by asbestos or costs associated with illnesses caused by non-occupational exposures. Further still, they consider only illness diagnosed in 2011.
“Although it may seem cold to attach a dollar value to outcomes associated with workers and their families who have suffered asbestos-related mesothelioma and lung cancer, economic burden studies such as this one can help policy-makers better understand the costs to society, pointing them to areas needing more prevention efforts and helping them set priorities,” says Tompa.
A range of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) continue to be imported and used in Canada including cement pipes, tiles, vehicle brake linings and brake pads.
Labour, health advocates and many others here in Canada continue to press the federal government to join much of the first world in banning the use, sale, import and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Many have joined forces under the Ban Asbestos Canada banner to continue pressing for a ban along with the creation of a registry of buildings containing asbestos and to track affected workers. 
Without these actions, the risk to health for the 145,000 Canadian workers exposed to asbestos in their workplaces continues. Asbestos is the leading cause of work-related death in Canada. It’s estimated that more than 2,000 Canadian workers die every year from diseases related to asbestos exposure. According to Statistics Canada data, asbestos-related deaths are on the rise. 
For our part, the Workers Health & Safety Centre offers a range of resources and asbestos awareness training to help workplace parties better understand this deadly hazard, related health and safety legislation and measures to control and track exposures.
To learn more: 
Call:   1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training service representative, or
Want to read the IWH’s findings on the economic burden of asbestos?
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