Asbestos is the number one on-the-job killer in Canada. This deadly cancer has continued to rise and shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. Mesothelioma is a cruel disease. It is an aggressive cancer that is the result of inhaling asbestos fibers and it develops in the lining around the lungs. The patient experiences shortness of breath, painful coughing and severe weight-loss. Around 60 percent of all those diagnosed with mesothelioma die within a year of the diagnosis.

Canada has been the largest producer of asbestos during the last century. In 2012, 560 new cases were recorded. According to the StatsCan website, deaths jumped from 292 deaths to 467 deaths. That is a 60% jump in asbestos related deaths. In 2012 Canada had still not banned the use of asbestos for some things even though the rest of the western world had banned the import and export of asbestos.

The Long Road

It has taken two decades, but the rate of mesothelioma cases in Canada is one of the highest in the world. Canada’s profuse determination in mining chrysotile asbestos along with permitting its use in thousands of products exposed citizens to the toxic substance.

Sometime during the 1970’s doctors declared the mining towns in Canada to be the most dangerous towns in the world as the mesothelioma rate continued to increase.

Since mesothelioma has a latency period of 20-50 years, and Canada waited so long to admit asbestos was a hazard, the death rate is expected to increase over the next decade. The incidence of mesothelioma increases with age thus it is uncommon for people under 50 to be diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The number 1 cause of occupational death in Canada is asbestos related diseases.

Occupations that have the highest exposure rate include the following:

Miners

Electricians

Plumbers

Shipyard Workers

Insulation Workers

Demolition Workers

Automotive Industry Workers

Construction Workers, Carpenters, & Painters

Anyone Present During Building Renovations

An Uneasy History

Evidence suggests that the asbestos company executives had received negative reports based on the study of miners as early as 1920 but withheld the findings from the employees and the public.

In July 2015, Health Canada updated its online information about the risks of asbestos. It finally conceded that exposure to any form of asbestos is dangerous. Health Canada has conceded that inhalation of asbestos can lead to cancer. The Canadian government regulates asbestos to protect Canadians by doing the following:

  • Regulating certain “high-risk” consumer products that is made from or contains asbestos.
  • Regulating the potential releases of asbestos into the environment.

The regulations for consumer products is monitored by the Asbestos Products Regulations which is under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

The regulations for the releases of asbestos into the environment is done through the Asbestos Mines and Mills Release Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. 1999

The Impact of Canada’s Asbestos Mines

Quebec has some of the highest counts of mesothelioma. The first mine opened here in 1879 and it was said to be “Canada’s Gold.”

Other provinces where the mineral was found in large quantities include Newfoundland, British Columbia and Yukon. Companies began manufacturing asbestos to use in a variety of consumer products both in Canada and worldwide. There was good money to be had in manufacturing asbestos and while the company CEO’s pocketed the cash workers got sick.

Quebec also hosts the longest operating and largest asbestos mines in Canada. The year 2012 saw 180 new cases of mesothelioma in Quebec compared to only 90 twenty years before.

As the mined asbestos was sent to manufactures and then shipped out to the construction industry, construction workers were always exposed to this hazardous substance. As a result, the asbestos-related disease rate is “extremely high” for the profession.

Finally, in 2011, the asbestos industry ground to a halt. The last two active mines in and near Quebec stalled. The following year, in spite of a public health outcry, the government guaranteed a 58-million-dollar loan to re-open and operate the mines for another 20 years. Before the government could transfer the money, a new government party was elected and canceled the loan altogether.

Treatment for Mesothelioma in Canada

Because there is such a large number of mesothelioma cases in Canada. A good medical system that offers excellent treatment options for mesothelioma is imperative. Canada’s socialized medical insurance system causes many to believe that better care for rare diseases can be found in the United States. However, treatment for mesothelioma is the same in both countries.

There are three options for treatment in Canada. They can be used singularly or in a combination of all three. The options are:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation

The treatment option that is selected is determined by factors such as the location and size of the tumor, the stage of cancer, the age of the patient, the patient’s overall health. The treatment will either be “cytoreductive” which means to remove the cancerous tissue, or “palliative” which means the goal is to ease the symptoms caused by the disease.

Doctors and Treatment Centers in Canada

Several hospitals, cancer centers and specialists are located in Canada that are dedicated to the treatment of mesothelioma. Promising research is underway that almost doubles the life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient. At the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Toronto General Hospital, specialists have developed a new approach to treating the cancer. In the study, radiation therapy was applied before surgery rather than after surgery. The results were amazing. Once diagnosed with mesothelioma a patient’s life expectancy is 12-18 months. The participants in this study lived an average of 51 months. The study was led by Dr. Marc de Perrot, Dr. Ronald Feld and Dr. John Cho.

Cancer facilities in Canada include:

  • Cross Cancer Institute at Alberty – Edmonton, Alberta
  • Princess Margaret Hospital – Surrey, British Columbia
  • Fraser Valley Cancer Centre – Surrey, British Columbia
  • Vancouver Cancer Centre – Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Centre for Southern Interior – Kelowna, British Columbia
  • Nova Scotia Cancer Centre – Hamilton, Ontario
  • Margaret and Charles Juravinski CC – Hamilton, Ontario
  • Toronto Western Hospital – Toronto, Ontario
  • London Regional Cancer Centre – London, Ontario
  • Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre – Ottawa, Ontario
  • McGill University Health Centre – Montreal, Quebec
  • L’Hospital Laval – Quebec
  • Allan Blair Cancer Centre – Regina Saskatchewan

Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma in Canada

The Canadian Cancer Institute and the U.S. National Cancer Institute will often collaborate in clinical trials. Together the test the effectiveness of specific medications in treating many diseases, one of which is mesothelioma. Currently, there is an ongoing Phase II trial for sunitnib malate. It is a drug that is being tested in hopes that it will have the ability to stop tumor cells from growing by blocking the enzymes that are needed for the tumor to grow.

For those interested in finding out what clinical trials are available, check the U.S. National Institutes of Health website at clinicaltrials.gov . Patients must speak to their doctor to make sure they will qualify for the clinical trial they are interested in.

Mesothelioma Compensation

Mesothelioma is a compensable disease in Canada. If patients have documentation that can prove their exposure happened in the workplace, then the provincial government will make payment to the affected worker. Unfortunately, less than half of workers that are affected apply for compensation.

Compensation for mesothelioma victims will vary and can include:

  • Bankruptcy trust funds
  • Settlements
  • Trial verdicts
  • A. for Veterans

The amount of benefits a victim will receive depends on expenses such as funeral costs, emotional distress, and lost wages. Compensation can range from small amounts of money to sums that go well into the millions of dollars. An attorney who specializes in asbestos related claims may be able to determine not only eligibility but also gauge the value of the case. An attorney can also help you decide if it is better to file a lawsuit or pursue a claim.

Most victims who are diagnosed with mesothelioma can trace their exposure to a specific company. When this occurs, the company who knowingly risked the health and safety of the individual in order to profit has to compensate for the injury. Asbestos manufacturers have gone out of business in order to prevent more lawsuits against them in the future. However, they have set an estimated $37 billion aside in trust funds to compensate for victims of asbestos exposure.

If a victim is unable to file a claim through the above methods, there are also general types of assistance that the victim can take advantage of. The programs are specifically designed to assist anyone with a serious illness. These programs include:

  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • Long-term Disability Insurance
  • Social Security Disability Payments
  • Community Assistance

Many local communities may be able to offer assistance. Organizations will provide families with transportation, food, lodging and any other out of pocket expenses that may arise during their treatment. Additionally, there may be community volunteers who assist with things such as caregiving duties and transportation. Information about these organizations can be found through the American Cancer Society or a local cancer support group.

It is important to keep track of all expenses related to mesothelioma. In most cases it will be a few months before any payment is received. The patient will still have to pay for the doctor, hospital and prescription bills. There will be unexpected expenses as well that are related to the disease but may not be covered by insurance. Patients should track everything related to the cancer, including how it has changed their day to day life and their budget. This information will assist the attorney ask for fair compensation when he/she pursues your claim. Expenses of asbestos-related illnesses can include:

  • Lost wages
  • Caregiver costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills
  • Travel expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Other expenses not covered by insurance

Canada has yet to outright ban asbestos. Until recently it was even used in children’s toys. The country is moving forward is some positive ways as they are currently removing asbestos from schools, plants, and factories at the expense of billions of dollars.

Some regulations have now been imposed in Canada. For example, the sale of pure asbestos is strictly regulated and the emissions of asbestos into the environment now falls under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Show Sources

Resources:

  1. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011. Canadian Cancer Society, Statistics Canada. Retrieved from:http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/statcan/CS2-37-2011-eng.pdf
  2. National Cancer Institute – Clinical Trials Search Results. (2011). Retrieved fromhttp://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/search/results?protocolsearchid=9611532
  3. Jahan TM, Dubey S, Speight JL, et al. Mesothelioma. Ko, A. H., Dollinger, M., & Rosenbaum, E. (2008). Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Therapy: How Cancer is Diagnosed, Treated and Managed Day to Day. (5th Edition). Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing. pp. 726-733.
  4. BC Cancer Agency – Mesothelioma. (2010). Retrieved from: http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/health-info/types-of-cancer/lung/mesothelioma
  5. Marrett, L. D., & Ellison, L. F. (2008 March 11). Retrieved from: Retrieved from: http://www.cmaj.ca/content/178/6/677.short
  6. Martini, F. H., Timmons, M. J., & Tallitsch, R. B. (2012). Human Anatomy. (7th Edition). San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
  7. Lee, C.W. MD & Martin, J. MD. (2008 April). Malignant mesothelioma: Canadian perspective and research directions. Canadian Medical Journal, 15. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2365488/
  8. Pass HI, Vogelzang NT, Hahn SM, et al. Benign and malignant mesothelioma. Devita, V. T., Jr., Lawrence, T. S., & Rosenberg, S. A. (2008). Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. (8th Edition). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 46.2: 1835-1862.
  9. The Star – Tories’ asbestos policy ‘unethical and shameful’ says Canadian doctors. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1044358–tories-asbestos-policy-unethical-and-shameful-say-canadian-doctors
  10. Medical Association Journal, 131. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1483812/
  11. Canadian Cancer Society. (2016). Mesothelioma statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/mesothelioma/statistics/?region=bc
  12. The Globe and Mail. (2016, January 2). Asbestos revealed as Canada’s top cause of workplace death. Retrieved fromhttp://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/mesothelioma/statistics/?region=bc
  13. Dugdale DC, and Chen YB. Mesothelioma – malignant. National Cancer Institute & National Library of Medicine. (2010, June 2). MedlinePlus: Trusted Health Information For You: Medical Encyclopedia. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute & National Library of Medicine.

Last Modified: Feb 17, 2017 @ 6:39 pm

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