VANCOUVER — With the number of asbestos-related deaths continuing to climb across Canada, a B.C. union leader is calling for the urgent creation of a national registry of public buildings and marine vessels containing the heat-resistant fibrous mineral that causes cancer.
Asbestos is now recognized as a hazardous material, but workers exposed as long as 40 years ago, when the material was widely used in construction and other industries, continue to be diagnosed with asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.
In a recent statement, WorkSafeBC said the number of asbestos-related fatalities, which was expected to peak in about 2015, is still climbing, and the high number of deaths may continue to grow for several more years. Statistics Canada data show that, in 2012, the most recent year for which national statistics are available, there were 560 new cases of mesothelioma, up from 276 in 1992.
And there are new fears that a younger generation of workers, not as acutely aware of the asbestos threat, are getting exposed in older buildings that contain the material. Of particular concern are those doing renovations and demolitions, where dust containing asbestos fibres can easily be inhaled.
Philip Venoit, who for the past 14 years has been president of Vancouver Island Building and Construction Trades Council, representing 7,000 workers, has written to the Prime Minister’s Office and to several premiers and mayors across the country.
He has had no response from the PMO or from premiers, but says several mayors have expressed support. A first letter was sent last summer, which he thinks was ignored because of the election campaign, so he wrote again just before Christmas.
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