Deaths from Asbestos Illness Continue to Increase in Quebec

Asbestos exposure kills more workers in Quebec than any other cause, according to a recent report released by Quebec’s workers compensation board.

So far this year, 61 out of 104 workers who died of work-related causes in the French-Canadian province have died of an asbestos illness, the board reports. Across Canada, deaths from asbestos-related mesothelioma cancer overall have increased 67% over the last 15 years, even though Canada has stopped using asbestos as a building material decades ago.

Quebec has a “zero tolerance” policy for asbestos exposure, which has been connected to a number of lung-related illnesses. However, both the province and the country have come under sharp criticism both internally and externally because Canada exports 175,000 metric tons a year of a form of asbestos known as chrysotile. The substance is shipped primarily to poor countries, and Quebec has the country’s only asbestos mine.

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Asbestos use was banned in Canada in the late 1970s, however it still can be found in many old buildings and homes. Exposure to asbestos is known to cause a number of ailments, including mesothelioma and asbestosis, as well as other diseases. Second-hand asbestos exposure is also a known danger, as employees who work around asbestos can bring fibers home on their clothes and in their hair, which family members unknowingly inhale or consume.

According to a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this year, the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths from asbestos exposure in the United States also continues to increase each year. As a result of the long latency period of between 20 and 40 years between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis, the number of asbestos deaths is expected to peak in the next few years and to hopefully return to background levels by 2055.

The British government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that about 4,000 people in the United Kingdom die from asbestos illness every year, which equates to about 20 people every week. Although stringent regulations were placed on the use of asbestos in the U.K. in 1983, the number of deaths from asbestos exposure are expected to continue to increase in the country, peaking by 2020.

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