Due to large natural deposits of asbestos within its borders, Canada has a long history of asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma, an extremely aggressive cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen. Workers who mine and process the asbestos are at the highest risk of developing disease, but anyone who comes into contact with products that contain asbestos has been put at risk.
Canadian Mesothelioma Statistics
A 2008 compilation of statistics by the Canadian Medical Association shows that the number of men diagnosed with mesothelioma has been rising for years. In 1984, 153 cases of the cancer were diagnosed, for a rate of 1.4 mesothelioma sufferers per 100,000 Canadians. Nearly twenty years later, in 2003, 344 cases were diagnosed and the rate had increased to 2.1 per 100,000. Part of the reason for this increase is the cancer’s long latency period, meaning that workers who were exposed to asbestos during its period of greatest use in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s are just now developing the disease.
Though mesothelioma primarily affects men since asbestos was, and still is, more prevalent in traditionally male-dominated occupations such as mining and construction work, women are certainly not immune to the disease. In 2003, 18% of all new mesothelioma diagnoses occurred in female patients, for a total of 78 women with mesothelioma. Many women suffered secondary exposure to asbestos when male relatives who worked around the substance came home with the deadly fibers still on their clothes.
The Canadian Medical Association reports that mining and manufacturing of asbestos has greatly decreased, but construction workers remain at risk because older homes and structures may still contain significant amounts of asbestos that can become dangerous during maintenance, renovation, and demolition projects. Unfortunately, Canada continues to export asbestos to other countries which do not have strict regulations on the use of the mineral.