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Because of asbestos mining and asbestos use in a wide range of industries, Canada has a high rate of mesothelioma cancer. Canada was once a leading exporter of asbestos, with most of its mines in the province of Quebec. Because of the prevalence of mining and asbestos use, the number of mesothelioma deaths in the Canada has yet to level out as it has in the U.S.
Today, asbestos mines are closed and the government has put regulations in place to protect workers and residents from asbestos. Still, asbestos has not been banned in Canada. Because of the long latency period of asbestos-related illnesses, thousands of people are still suffering from mesothelioma and asbestosis. Thousands more are expected to develop symptoms from past exposure in the coming years.
Facts about Mesothelioma and Asbestos in Canada
Like the U.S., Canada has a long and troubled history with asbestos. Prized for its ability to insulate, fireproof, and add flexible strength to materials, asbestos was used in a range of industries. Canada also had a thriving asbestos mining industry that contributed significantly to exposure.
- The number of diagnoses of mesothelioma, and the number of deaths caused by mesothelioma continue to rise in Canada.
- Mesothelioma cases increased 60 percent from 2000 to 2012.
- Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of occupational death in the country.
- Prevalence of mesothelioma in Canada is highest in Quebec, where several asbestos mines were in operation for many years.
- The last asbestos mine in Canada closed in 2011 in Quebec.
- Another hot spot for mesothelioma is southwestern Ontario, where there are high numbers of industrial jobs, especially in petrochemical plants in Sarnia.
Products and Industries That Used Asbestos
For decades, asbestos was used in a number of Canadian industries. Since it has not been completely banned, there are still some industries and products that use asbestos. Also, there are older homes, industrial sites, and ships that still contain asbestos materials. These structures may pose a risk to anyone working or residing in those locations.
Some industries in Canada that commonly used asbestos were construction, chemical manufacturing, shipbuilding, mining, textile production, insulation manufacturing, and power generation. Nearly any type of industrial workplace was likely to have asbestos on the premises or in the materials made.
Older buildings may still have asbestos. Components with a high probability of containing asbestos include insulation, roofing materials, flooring tiles, wallboard, cement board, and fireproofing materials. Other possible sources of asbestos are heat resistant materials, clutches and brakes in cars. Certain parts of naval ships also contained asbestos like insulation, boilers, turbines, gaskets, flooring, and ceiling materials.
Asbestos Mining in Canada
Canada’s use of asbestos in industries like construction, factories, and shipbuilding was similar to that of the U.S. However, Canada had a larger asbestos mining industry than the U.S. At one time, Canada was one of the world’s leading asbestos exporters. This asbestos mining industry had a far-reaching, negative impact on mine workers, their families, and residents living near mines. Canada’s first asbestos mine began operation in 1879. The last halted operations in 2011.
The fibers produced produced during the mining process caused exposure among the workers. Inhalation was the most common form of exposure, however workers also brought fibers home on their clothing, which put families at risk. Residents who lived near mines were also likely to be exposed. FIbers could easily become airborne as they were carried on the wind and potentially contaminated local soil and water sources. As early as the 1920s, mine owners may have known the health risks caused by exposure. However, many of them sat on the information.
Because the Canadian mining industry was so economically powerful, Canada was one of a handful of countries that actively advocated to prevent chrysotile asbestos from being added to a United Nations list of harmful substances. This occurred in 2008 at the Rotterdam convention, decades after the health risks of asbestos were well known. The Canadian government also resisted complete bans on asbestos, in spite of those bans being recommended by the World Health Organization. Since then, Quebec’s last asbestos mine has been closed. However, asbestos still has not been completely banned in Canada. There have also been numerous attempts to re-open mines.
People at Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Workers in a wide range of settings were at risk of being asbestos exposure. Many are still at risk of developing long-latency illnesses like mesothelioma and asbestos. Anyone who worked in manufacturing, in shipbuilding or repair, in asbestos mines, or in transporting or processing asbestos. is potentially at risk. Also workers in construction, demolition, auto mechanics, andother industrial settings could have been exposed.
Today, Canadians are still at risk. This risk will continue until an outright ban is instituted. Because large amounts of asbestos were used over the years, this dangerous mineral can still be found in ships, homes, factories, and mining areas. Anyone living in an older home may be at risk of exposure, especially when repairing or renovating their home. People working on ships are still at risk,as are people who live near asbestos mines.
Asbestos Regulations and Laws
Canada has long resisted the idea of a full ban on asbestos. However, the government has put regulations in place in attempts to protect its citizens. The Hazardous Products Act regulates the manufacturing and sale of consumer products that contain asbestos. Emissions and environmental exposure limits to asbestos are regulated by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Although there are currently no asbestos mines operating in Canada, there have been efforts made to re-open them.
Compensation for Exposure Victims
Canadians who got sick from asbestos exposure have options for seeking compensation. Although there are sources of compensation, including asbestos trusts, statistics show not even half of qualified workers apply to receive money. The Canadian Society for Asbestos Victims helps people make claims and get compensation they need for medical bills and other expenses. Some of the ways people can get compensation include through the WorkSafeBC Disability Pension, the Canada Pension Plan Disability, the Veterans Affairs Disability Pension, and through class action suits.
Mesothelioma Treatment Centers in Canada
Victims of asbestos exposure need specialty medical care if they develop asbestosis or mesothelioma. Canadian citizens are able to get free medical treatment through the nationalized healthcare system, or they may choose to pay for private healthcare. Some of the facilities in Canada offering cancer care and mesothelioma treatment include Toronto Western Hospital, McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, London Regional Cancer Centre in London, Ontario, Vancouver Cancer Centre, Nova Scotia Cancer Centre in Halifax, and the Princess Margaret Hospital in Surrey, British Columbia.
People around the world have been negatively impacted by the use of asbestos. In Canada, citizens have been affected by exposure to asbestos in industrial workplaces and the mining industry. Canada continues to resist a complete asbestos ban. There is also still a chance asbestos mining will re-open. Those affected by asbestos can seek compensation and specialty care, however there there will likely be more cases of mesothelioma in the future.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.