Connecting the Dots

By Laurie Kazan-Alleexportprod-chartn

I am not one for graphs or bar charts but today I saw a diagram that really made sense. It plotted the levels of Canadian asbestos production from 1948 until 2002 alongside the incidence of asbestos-related deaths.[1] What was as clear as the nose on your face was the deadly impact that Canada’s asbestos industry has had on its citizens. Thirty years after asbestos production had peaked, asbestos-related mortality had reached an all-time high. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the cause and effect relationship between exposure to asbestos and disease. Wherever asbestos has been mined, processed or used, disease and death follows.

Mesothelioma mortality in Canada has been rising since the 1960s with 400+ deaths now being registered every year. Predictably mesothelioma hotspots include areas where asbestos exposure was rife including asbestos mining regions, shipyard towns and sites where asbestos was manufactured or processed. People in these locations have paid and will continue to pay with their lives for the profits of asbestos companies. In Ontario, the number of new mesothelioma diagnoses rose by 260% between 1982 (20) and 2002 (72). While the incidence of asbestosis seems to be in decline, there is no end in sight for Canada’s mesothelioma epidemic. Although Canadian epidemiologists believe that the incidence of this deadly cancer could decline after 2019, the presence of huge amounts of asbestos contained within the built and natural environment, leads one to question this optimistic forecast.

Commenting on this situation Mary Hesdorffer, the Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, said:

“Despite the fact that Canadian asbestos production has now ceased, the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases means that we will, unfortunately, see many more cases of mesothelioma in the years to come. Each patient diagnosed has a family and friends, a community which will be devastated by this diagnosis. With all that is known about the effects asbestos has on human beings, it is beyond belief that neither Canada nor the U.S. has banned asbestos. Just what are they waiting for?”

Mary is right. The only way to bring the global asbestos catastrophe to an end is for the mining, sale and use of asbestos to be banned the world over. If not now, when?

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