Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca
Latest figures show new cases of mesothelioma in Canada doubled over the past 20 years.
New cases of mesothelioma in Canada doubled from 276 cases in 1992 to 560 cases in 2012 (latest data available from Statistics Canada). Of the 560 new cases in 2012, 105 were women. There is little recognition of the fact that women are also dying from asbestos-related diseases. There is even less support provided to women who are victims of asbestos than there is to men. Often they feel completely isolated and if they were exposed to asbestos outside the workplace, they do not even receive workers’ compensation assistance.
In Quebec the rate (age-standardized) for men of 2.8 new cases per 100,000 population is 30% higher than the national rate of 2.2.
Increasing number of Canadian dying from asbestos
In the 12 years between 2000 and 2012, the number of Canadians dying from mesothelioma increased by 60% from 292 deaths in 2000 to 467 deaths in 2012.
Normally, a continuing epidemic of deaths such as this would be treated as a national crisis and the federal government would show leadership to address the crisis. Because the Canadian government has, to date, been in bed with the asbestos industry and the Harper government fervently and ideologically supported the asbestos trade for the past decade, the Canadian government has, to date, turned a blind eye and cold indifference to this terrible human tragedy that is harming the lives of Canadians in every part of the country.
Figures represent only a portion of asbestos diseases and deaths
It is recognized that this data is not complete and does not capture all cases of mesothelioma. Furthermore, these figures represent only a portion of the diseases and deaths caused by asbestos. Asbestos causes far more cases of lung cancer and other cancers, such as cancers of the larynx and ovary, than cases of mesothelioma, as well as causing asbestosis. No national or provincial records of these cases exist.
For more than a century, it has been known that asbestos causes disease and death. The asbestos industry suppressed the scientific evidence, created lobby organisations and hi-jacked public policy. Canadians, and people around the world, have paid the price with their lives. The economic costs have been enormous with billions of dollars spent on health care costs, removal of asbestos from buildings and compensation for victims and their families.
Time for Canada to ban asbestos
The new Canadian Liberal government has said that it will uphold scientific evidence and the public interest. To date, Canadian government policy on asbestos has been set by the asbestos industry, not science. It is time for the Trudeau government to end the decades-long complicity between the asbestos industry and the Canadian government. It is time that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Health Minister Jane Philpott show the kind of leadership that Canadians hoped for in electing them.
Health experts and civil society organisations in Canada and around the world have asked Prime Minister Trudeau and Health Minister Philpott to respect science, protect health and ban asbestos so that no more Canadians die needlessly and to show the world that Canada’s historic role of leading global promoter of the asbestos industry has finally ended.
It is time for the Trudeau government to put its values into action and ban asbestos.