As the Environmental Protection Agency seems to be opening the door to introducing asbestos use back into the United States, mesothelioma patients and advocates are struggling to find a way to fight back. They might take a lesson from recent victories achieved by our neighbors to the north, in Canada. A study conducted by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) that looked into the lifetime costs of newly diagnosed cases of work-related asbestos illnesses in the country proved extremely helpful, and its conclusions ended up being incorporated into the Canadian government’s regulatory impact statement related to that country’s recent asbestos ban.
Though there had been plenty of scientific data linking asbestos use and mining to mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases, the IWH report ended up getting so much attention in the media that it became impossible to ignore. While safety and work advocacy groups worked to raise attention to the importance of enacting an asbestos ban, the report ended up being summarized by more than 50 television stations in the United States and by more than 40 print and online media sources. Also helping in the campaign was a series written by journalist Tavia Grant of the Globe and Mail which focused attention on the health risks of asbestos exposure.
According to IWH Senior Scientist Dr. Emile Tompa, the study’s lead author, the attention by the media on the issue of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, came as no surprise, but was particularly effective because of its timing: it was made public at the same time that the Canadian government was considering its asbestos ban. “Asbestos is the top cause of occupational deaths in Canada, and many organizations had been pressing the Canadian government to act,” says Tompa. What Tompa may not have anticipated was that the new asbestos regulations that were eventually proposed by the government in January of 2018 cited information from the study to support its position, as well as the anticipated benefits of the new rules. Speaking of why the report was so valuable, economists Joe Devlin, Keisha Panoff and Michael Chan of Environment and Climate Change Canada said, “The IWH study provided us with high-quality evidence on the economic burden of asbestos-related diseases in the Canadian context. It was invaluable to our analysis.” The study had estimated the costs of mesothelioma and lung cancer due to asbestos exposure from work at $2.35 billion for the year 2011 alone. “Little information has been available on the magnitudes of health and productivity losses from these diseases and their costs to society,” says Tompa.
Whether a similar effort will succeed in the United States remains to be seen, but mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases do exact both a financial and emotional toll in our country. For information on how the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can support you as you battle against the impact of this disease, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.