A first-ever estimate of the toll of asbestos-related cancers on society pegs the cost of new cases at $1.7-billion per year in Canada, and notes that is likely an under-estimate.
The economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma from work-related asbestos exposure in Canada amounts to an average of $818,000 per case, according to a team led by health economist and senior scientist Dr. Emile Tompa at the Institute for Work & Health, a research organization, whose calculation includes costs related to health care and lost productivity and quality of life.
This is the first time a tally of these costs has been made public. Asbestos remains the top cause of occupational deaths in Canada: Workers’ compensation boards have accepted more than 5,700 claims since 1996. About 150,000 Canadian workers are exposed to asbestos in their workplaces, the research project Carex Canada estimates, among them construction workers and contractors, mechanics, shipbuilders and engineers.
This country continues to allow exports and imports of asbestos, which rose to a six-year high last year. Dozens of other countries, including Australia and Britain, have banned it.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month the federal government is “moving forward on a ban.” It is the first time since taking office that he has publicly talked about a potential ban, although he gave no timeline and it was not an official announcement.
“We are moving to ban asbestos,” he told a conference of building trades unions on May 10. “Its impact on workers far outweighs any benefits that it might provide.”
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