A sobering look at Canada’s legacy of asbestos use comes with a recent report which estimates that new cases of asbestos cancer costs the country, which has a national healthcare system, about $1.7 billion dollars per year, a number that many say is actually a gross underestimate.
According to an article in the Globe and Mail, health economists have determined that the economic burden of mesothelioma and other lung-related cancers associated with workplace asbestos exposure amounts to about $818,000 per case.
This number, notes health economist and senior scientist Dr. Emile Tompa (Institute for Work & Health), includes costs related to not only healthcare but also lost productivity and quality of life.
Asbestos exposure has long been the top cause of occupational deaths in Canada, particularly because of the country’s widespread use of the mineral and the fact that the chrysotile form of asbestos was mined in Quebec until just a few years ago.
The aforementioned report notes that about 150,000 workers are still exposed to asbestos in their workplaces each day, despite the fact that it’s long been known that asbestos exposure can cause cancer.
While Tompa estimates that the cost of treating a mesothelioma patient in Canada stands at about $46,000 per person, he points out that there are also many other costs to society-at-large when someone is stricken with this aggressive form of cancer.
“We all play different roles in society. Even if you’re retired, you might have community roles, domestic roles, you might take care of your grandchildren,” he explains.
The Canadian Cancer Society, as well as many health-related groups and labor unions, are pleading with the federal government to consider and, ultimately, pass a comprehensive ban on asbestos, something the Liberal Party had pledged to do last year if elected.
Current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, recently affirmed that direction in a speech at a conference of building trade unions.
“We are moving to ban asbestos,” he pronounced. “Its impact on workers far outweighs any benefits it might provide.” Trudeau also pointed out that there are countless countries that have already banned the toxic mineral, including both Australia and the United Kingdom.
Americans have also seen the toll that mesothelioma can take on individuals and on families as well. When someone develops mesothelioma, it not only effects them financially but also socially and emotionally.
The individual becomes unable to live life as he/she once did, requiring expensive treatments and, potentially, full-time care by a family member, friend, or hired healthcare worker. It’s a scenario that can wreak havoc on the family unit as well as a family’s financial well-being.
As in Canada, Americans were exposed to asbestos in the workplace for decades. Though use of asbestos was essentially halted around 1980, a ban has never been placed on the mineral.
The American medical community has noted that cases of mesothelioma continue to rise and aren’t expected to level off until at least 2020. This is due to the long latency period of the disease, which can take up to 50 years to appear.