In recent years, a common belief in the U.S. and around the world is that cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases have already peaked. Many people and organizations have convinced themselves that the worst is over and from here on out, we will see a steady decline in deaths caused by asbestos.
The truth, however, is that mesothelioma cases come in waves — and they are continuing to rise. Current updated figures from Statistics Canada show that cases of mesothelioma in that country have steadily risen, and that there are no signs that diagnoses of this aggressive cancer will slow down any time soon.
Canada’s Asbestos Problem Shows No Indications of Going Away
Far too many people in Canada are familiar with mesothelioma because the country was the world’s largest producer and exporter of chrysotile asbestos during the last century. Quebec was home to asbestos mines that were among the largest and longest-operating. The mines are now closed, but the damage has been done.
The up-to-date numbers released by Statistics Canada report 560 new cases of mesothelioma in 2012. In 1992, only 276 cases were documented. Asbestos-related deaths increased by 60% between 2000 and 2012. Some experts feel the numbers are likely even higher, as some cases of mesothelioma have been mistaken for lung cancer, COPD, or other lung-related diseases.
“It’s well recognized by the scientists and health experts who study asbestos-related diseases that there are at least twice as many cases of lung cancers caused by exposure to asbestos. So you’re seeing only part of the harm and suffering and deaths,” said Kathleen Ruff, a human rights advocate and anti-asbestos campaigner from British Columbia, Canada, in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Asbestos Is Still Not Banned and the U.S. Continues to Suffer
Of the over 190 countries in the world, asbestos has been banned in 57 countries. Those 57 include all of Western Europe, which is considered to be home to many advanced and affluent countries. One would assume the U.S. and Canada would be included among that group — after all, the Davos World Economic Forum just named the U.S. as the most powerful country in the world.
That assumption, however, would be wrong.
Though asbestos is much more highly regulated in the U.S. than it was in the past, it has still not been completely banned. Approximately 11,000 Americans are killed by asbestos-related diseases every single year; 1 expert estimates that around 300,000 will die within the next 3 decades. That’s 300,000 lives lost due to a completely preventable cause.
Greedy Corporations Continue to Put Profits Ahead of People
With everything we know about the dangers of asbestos, why does this deadly mineral remain legal in our country? Because there’s still money to be made off of it — and major corporations aren’t willing to let it go without a fight. Although it is abundantly clear that asbestos exposure can have deadly consequences, these huge companies spend massive amounts of money to lobby members of Congress and prevent asbestos from being completely banned.
Asbestos mining began on a large scale between the 1850s and 1900s. Due to its strength and resistance to heat, asbestos was hailed as the miracle mineral and found its way into countless consumer products including insulation, car parts, and even fire-proof pajamas for children. Asbestos was cheap and effective — using it just seemed to make sense and no one was really aware of the dangers yet. The workers who spent their days in asbestos mines are considered to be the first wave of asbestos victims in the U.S.
From the 1930s until about 1980, asbestos-containing products were everywhere. The material played a major role in ship-building during World War II, and these products were very commonly used by those who worked as plumbers, welders, shipyard workers, firefighters, railroad workers, and in other primarily blue collar occupations. These individuals are the majority of the second wave of asbestos victims.
By this point, the companies manufacturing asbestos-containing products knew about the potential health dangers and chose to remain silent. They knowingly continued to make money with complete disregard for the health of others — and the general public had no idea what was happening.
The third wave of asbestos-related diseases is happening right now. Although asbestos is much more regulated, it has become more of a threat to everyone in the U.S., rather than mostly individuals with specific occupations. As older buildings and materials begin to deteriorate, asbestos is being released into the air for anyone in the general vicinity to breathe in. Asbestos is hidden everywhere and it continues to kill nearly 30 people every day in our country.
Until there is a total ban on asbestos in the U.S., Canada, and other countries, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases will never stop killing. When will our lawmakers decide that enough is enough?