Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Health experts warn government to drop asbestos

Deaths from asbestos still rising in Quebec

Hiding in the lungs of people for up to 40 years before they start developing symptoms, asbestos killed more Canadians this year than ever before.

According to a new report from the Alberta government, deaths from asbestos will continue to rise until they peak between 2015 and 2019.

Deaths from mesothelioma will plateau at 269 per year before beginning to slowly fall off, according to report. A substantial increase from the 127 mesothelioma deaths recorded over the 1980s.

“We have had the same results for the general population in Quebec,” said Louise De Guire, the director of biological, environmental and occupational risks for the Institut national de santé publique du Québec.

“We are in a mesothelioma epidemic right now,” she said. De Guire’s department estimated that cases will peak in Quebec in 2010.

“The rates of mesothelioma among men in Quebec has risen by 3.6 per cent annually between 1980 and 2002,” explained De Guire.

“Asbestos is the biggest killer of workers in Quebec, by far,” said Kathleen Ruff, a senior human rights advisor to the Rideau Institute. According to the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, nearly 60 per cent of worker deaths in Quebec so far in 2009 have been caused by asbestos-related diseases.

“From 1950 to 1970 there was a boom in construction in downtown Montreal. This was an era when asbestos was often used to insulate buildings and it was an era where the dangers were not well-known,” continued De Guire. “Nearly 50 per cent of people who ask for compensation from the CSST today were in the construction industry.

“The people who put asbestos in buildings in the 1970s are only showing their symptoms now.”

Asbestos miners represent only 30 per cent of mesothelioma deaths; an additional 10 per cent of cases are found in factory workers who used asbestos in products. The cost for the CSST, Quebec’s worker safety board, has already topped $66 million, which doesn’t include health care costs or the loss of work hours.

“[Asbestos is] not treated like a health issue in Canada, it’s a political issue and that is a huge tragedy,” said Ruff. “The Canadian government has betrayed public health to win a few votes in the asbestos mining region of Quebec.”

The Quebec government adopted a policy in 2002 that allowed for what it called the “safe use of asbestos.” This policy allowed for Quebec’s only existing asbestos project, in Thetford Mines, to continue exporting the fibrous material to the developing world.

“There were a series of newspaper articles that came from mining organizations at the time saying that the use of asbestos was not dangerous and that there was no asbestos problem in Quebec,” said De Guire. “We wrote a paper for [then-Minister of Health and Social Services Philippe Couillard] in 2005 to tell him that it was not a good idea to encourage the ‘safe’ use of asbestos in Quebec.”

After the report was written some positive steps were taken by the government, explained De Guire, including the removal of asbestos from all public buildings.

The Link, Concordia University, Montreal

by Justin Giovannetti

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