Canada has, for a long time, been one of the leading producers of asbestos which has now come under extreme scrutiny. For the first time in over 100 years, one of the world's top producers of mesothelioma-causing asbestos has stopped production at its two remaining asbestos mines because of money and logistical problems.
Canada Under the Microscope
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body's internal organs. In the United States alone, more than 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. So it should therefore come as no surprise that Canada is now facing some harsh criticism.
Health officials around the world have been highly critical, if not denunciatory, of Canada's asbestos industry and its exportation policies because of the clear link between asbestos and various asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma. Because mesothelioma is an extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer, more attention is being paid to this issue. The disease attacks the protective tissue that encases both the lungs and lining of the abdomen, and because symptoms don't appear until decades after asbestos exposure, by the time a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, it may be terminal.
Today, despite protective measures, mesothelioma is on the rise worldwide, especially in third-world countries where asbestos is still used as a cheap additive to building materials. To make matters worse, many of these countries are top importers of Canadian asbestos.
Once a dominant force in the world for the production of asbestos, Canada was revered for the production of asbestos-related materials for fireproofing and insulating components. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Canada produced 85% of the world's asbestos in the 1900's - 1.69 million metric tons at its peak in 1973. In 2010, the country produced about 100,000 metric tons - just 5% of the world supply. How many thousands of cases of mesothelioma were caused by the Canadian asbestos industry has never been reported. Now that production has stopped, the Canadian Press says the future of the country's last two mines remains unclear.
Asbestos Mining To Be Continued?
One of the two mines remaining would need a team of international investors and a bank loan guarantee of $58 million from the government of Quebec in order to start digging in a new section. If things work out in their favor, it is estimated that the mine could continue to produce asbestos for another 25 to 50 years. The Canadian Mining Journal reports that investors hope to resume production of this mine in the spring of 2012.
The other mine doesn't seem to be faring quite as well and has been having 'operational problems'- though these problems aren't necessarily due to human opposition. In fact, the problems are due to a massive rock slide that cut off access to the mine's economically viable chrysotile. It is unclear when work will resume at this location.
In the meantime, many mesothelioma activists are furious over the entire situation, arguing that asbestos safety standards in poorer countries are not high enough, which, if Canadian production of asbestos continues, may put thousands more people at risk for mesothelioma in the next ten to twenty years.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
Myra D. Foreman writes for Surviving Mesothelioma. This is the only website where this important book is available for free. The book is written by Paul Kraus who was diagnosed with mesothelioma more than a decade ago and is still enjoying life today!