Statistics Canada (StatsCan) revealed that according to 2012 statistics, the latest available, mesothelioma cases and deaths have continued to rise. In fact, from 2000 to 2012, asbestos-related cancers jumped 60 per cent – from 292 to 467.
Kathleen Ruff, a B.C. human rights and anti-asbestos advocate, stated, “What they [statistics] show is shocking because they show that in the past 20 years, the number of cases have doubled and the numbers just keep going up . . . and that only represents part of the picture. It’s well recognized by the scientists and health experts who study asbestos-related diseases that there are at least twice as many cases of lung cancers caused by exposure to asbestos. So you’re seeing only part of the harm and suffering and deaths.”
At this time, Canada has not banned asbestos. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, as well as many other international leaders, has urged Canada to pursue the UN’s Rotterdam Convention to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance. Canada was the world’s largest producer and exporter of chrysotile asbestos throughout the last century – especially in Quebec where many asbestos mines were located. Southwestern Ontario’s “Chemical Valley” was another area producing an exceptional number of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers, primarily in the petrochemical industry and through other industrial uses. This workplace exposure subsequently brought about thousands of cases and deaths due to asbestos – all the more tragic since almost all workplace exposures were, and are, preventable.
As in many countries all over the world, asbestos exposure is still a reality through deadly fibers unleashed during the remodeling or tear down of older homes as well as older public and commercial buildings. Exposure also exists through the continued importation of certain asbestos-containing products, such as replacement brake pads, cement pipes and cement board used in construction.
Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre at Cancer Care Ontario, said “There’s a lot of chances for continuing exposure. It’s hard to predict when we’re going to see the peak of this.” Demers foresees, based on computer modeling, there will be “at least 2,000 new cancers each year in Canada, mostly fatal. We’re dealing with mistakes made in the past . . . So it is a tragedy. It’s one that we’re going to have to live with for a while. But we hope it leads to action in terms of trying to prevent more cases occurring in the future.”