A Town Called Asbestos (Canada)
by Connor Burke
The town called Asbestos
Asbestos town is located at southern Quebec province. Its first asbestos mine was established in 1879 and helped the local community grow dramatically. Today, its economy entirely depends on asbestos mining, extraction and production, as does the life of its citizens.
Despite numerous attempts to outlaw the substance, the government maintained its support for the asbestos industry. In the case of Asbestos town, a $58 million loan was granted by the government to keep the last mine operational. However, following a new presidential election, the loan was cancelled, preventing further extraction but also resulting in thousands of job losses.
A similar story can be told about Canada as a country. From early mining, asbestos quickly became Canada’s new gold. Boosting industrial expansion, company executives made good money from asbestos extraction, while their workers got sicker and died from uncertain causes.
Facing up to the ban of asbestos
Until 2012, asbestos mining was one of country’s prime industries and only last month was it completely banned, nearly 20 years after the UK.
“Quebec governments did their best to persuade the world that asbestos was just fine—not all kinds of asbestos, of course, but the asbestos that came from Canada,” According to journalists, John Gray and Stephanie Nolen, from their acclaimed article on Asbestos ‘Where Asbestos is Just a Fact of Life’. Canada was one of the countries that remained reluctant to recognise the dangers asbestos posed, due to its dependence on the mineral.
Having argued that certain forms of asbestos are safe if handled correctly, the government is faced with having to overturn the misleading perception that asbestos is a national treasure.
Now spending millions of dollars to remove asbestos from public, industrial and commercial buildings, the Canadian government also has to address the health impact of asbestos.
Currently, asbestos-related diseases accounts for up to a third of workplace deaths since 1996. With deaths from mesothelioma rising, the cancer rate in Canada is now one of the highest in the world. According to experts, every 2.1 of every 100,000 Canadians annually are diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Over a period of 36 years, the number Canadian’s who died from mesothelioma almost quadrupled, from 153 in 1984 to 515 in 2010. So, although Canada has taken the steps to introduce a ban (with certain exceptions), it’s clear that there is a long road ahead before they fully get to grips with the lasting impact of asbestos.
April 16, 2019
April 12, 2019