Tuesday, May 19, 2020


The asbestos mine in Baie Verte, Newfoundland stated that safety changes demanded by the workers were "economically unfeasible". Beating the owners with a 2"x 4" piece of wood is illegal but killing the employees slowly and painfully for financial profit is not. Hence my respect and admiration for the laws of man at their finest. The mine opened in 1963 and in 1976 the union brought a renowned American asbestos specialist, Dr. Irving J. Selikoff, to examine the miners. At that time 10% of the workers were found to have asbestos-related diseases. Following were the mine's owners' reluctance to fully embrace the doctor's safety recommendations.

Oh by the way this is a posting about the rest of the article that I posted about last Saturday titled "The Uncounted "Just because it's been banned doesn't mean it magically disappears" Part 2: Prevention" by Greg Mercer, Record reporter.

Estimates suggest that asbestos causes 1,900 cases of lung cancer and 430 cases of mesothethelioma per year in Canada. As serious as lung cancer is, it is the mesothelioma which is almost always fatal. The numbers of cases are based upon workman's compensation claims. However as most mesothelioma patients do not survive even for a year after diagnosis they've got bigger things to worry about such as doctor's appointments, home care and hospice issues.

In Canada there are asbestos mines in Quebec, Newfoundland and British Columbia. Both asbestosis and mesothelioma are usually fatal. Not only are many claims never filed but of those that are compensation boards have denied many of them. In my opinion a choice of a five year jail sentence or three years working in an asbestos mine would be an appropriate sentence for the decision makers either at the top of the WSIB / Workman's Compensation Board as well as the provincial politicians at the top of the food chain.

Sarnia, Ontario used to be the epicentre for occupational diseases in Canada with an epidemic of mesothelioma, leukemias, lung cancers, brain cancers, and gastro-intestinal cancers all connected to the city's chemical and refining industry. Today in Sarnia "Employers have made progress removing and containing asbestos when it's discovered in their refineries and plants.". "Sandra Kinart, an activist who lost her husband and four members of her family to to mesothelioma, said it took decades of workers dying from mysterious illnesses before people started taking the problem seriously.".

Back in Baie Verte, Newfoundland, a registry was finally set up by the provincial government to record the health and work history of the Baie Verte workers. To this day many former miners or their families are still waiting for compensation, stuck in the system, bogged down in a bureaucracy "...unable to make a link between those diseases and workplace exposure." In my opinion it is not so much a case of "unable to make a link..." as it is a case of unwilling to make a link.

Workers' cases are denied due to incomplete documentation such as missing superviors affidavits, smoking, and the miners and their spouses dying prematurely.

The dangers of asbestos have been known for a century or more in mines around the world. Financial compensation when granted is "...like a slap in the face" said one of the victim's sons. It is peanuts. Nobody goes to jail for the intentional infliction of mental and physical harm taking years off of workers' lives. No one goes to jail for designing a system that intentionally minimizes pain, suffering and the recognition of major on the job health hazards that were never properly addressed. By design. By intention. For profit and or for political enhancement.

One final point regarding asbestos exposure. It's not just about miners, refinery workers and manufacturing workers. Construction workers and plumbers used to install (and remove) asbestos pipe (transit pipe I believe). To this day there are still certainly asbestos pipes in Elmira delivering drinking water and most likely in Kitchener and Waterloo as well. They should have been removed decades ago but have at best only partially been done.

No comments:

Post a Comment