Mesothelioma in Canada is an ongoing problem, as the country once led the world in mining and exporting asbestos. The mines are now closed, and the government has put regulations to protect workers and residents from asbestos. Because of the long latency period, the number of mesothelioma deaths in Canada continues to rise despite these protections.
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 various 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 continues to rise in Canada.
- Mesothelioma cases increased by 60% from 2000 to 2012.
- In 2016, the most recent year for statistics, 445 Canadians received a mesothelioma diagnosis.
- In 2017, 490 Canadians died from mesothelioma.
- Exposure to asbestos is a leading cause of occupational death in the country.
- The 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, several Canadian industries used asbestos. Asbestos lingers in older industrial sites, ships, homes, and commercial buildings. These structures may pose a risk to anyone working or residing in those locations.
Some industries in Canada that commonly used asbestos were:
- Chemical manufacturing
- Textile production
- Insulation manufacturing
- Power generation
Nearly any type of industrial workplace was likely to have asbestos on the premises or in the materials they 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. Naval ships also contained asbestos, such as 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 mineworkers, their families, and residents living near mines. Canada’s first asbestos mine began operation in 1879. The last mine halted operations in 2011.
The fibers 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, putting their families at risk.
Fibers could easily become airborne as the wind carried them and potentially contaminated local soil and water sources. Residents who lived near mines were also likely to be exposed. As early as the 1920s, mine owners may have known the health risks caused by exposure, but many of them sat on the information.
Since 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, despite those bans being recommended by the World Health Organization. Since then, Quebec’s last asbestos mine has closed.
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 asbestosis.
Anyone who worked in manufacturing, shipbuilding or repair, asbestos mines, or transporting or processing asbestos is potentially at risk. Workers in construction, demolition, auto mechanics, and other industrial settings also could have been exposed.
Many Canadians are still at risk today. Since large amounts of asbestos were used over the years, the dangerous mineral is still found aboard ships and in 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 long resisted the idea of a total ban on asbestos; however, the government has put regulations in place in an attempt to protect its citizens. The Hazardous Products Act regulates the manufacturing and sale of consumer products that contain asbestos.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act regulates emissions and environmental exposure limits to asbestos.
Although there are currently no asbestos mines operating in Canada, efforts have been made to reopen them.
Asbestos Banned in Canada
The Canadian government finally banned asbestos outright, effective in 2018. The law bans using, selling, and importing asbestos as well as manufacturing with asbestos.
Advocates waited many years for this ban, but many felt it didn’t go far enough. The law allows for a few exemptions, for instance for the military, nuclear facilities, and chlor-alkali plants.
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 the qualified workers apply to receive money.
The Canadian Society for Asbestos Victims helps people make claims and get the compensation they need for medical bills and other expenses.
Ways people can get compensation include:
- WorkSafeBC Disability Pension
- Canada Pension Plan Disability
- Veterans Affairs Disability Pension
- Class action suit
Mesothelioma Treatment Centers in Canada
Victims of asbestos exposure need specialty medical care if they develop asbestosis or mesothelioma. Canadian citizens can 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
- Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
The use of asbestos has negatively impacted people around the world. 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 reopen. Those affected by asbestos can seek compensation and specialty care; however, there will likely be more mesothelioma cases in the future.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
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.