Asbestos fuels rise in Canadian job-related deaths

December 28th, 2006

A new report has found that as many as five Canadians a day are dying from workplace accidents or work-related diseases such as mesothelioma. The Centre for the Study of Living Standards found that there were 1,097 more workplace fatalities in 2005 than 2004, an 18% increase.

The group says that the fishing and trapping industry was the most dangerous, with one death for every 1,900 workers. Mining, quarrying and oil well work (with one death for every 2,100 workers) and logging (with one death per 3,000 workers) were the second and third most dangerous job types on the list.

In what is perhaps the study’s most disturbing finding, the report said that an increase in the number of new cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases was responsible for a majority of the increase in fatalities. Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer of the heart, lungs or abdomen that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. Workers in Canada’s asbestos mines, as well as builders, factory workers and repairmen—who often encounter asbestos in the workplace—are among the groups hardest hit by the disease.

The report found that deaths due to asbestos exposure rose from 0.4 per 100,000 workers in 1996 to 2.1 per 100,000 workers in 2005. All told, this means that about half of all workplace-related deaths in Canada are being caused by asbestos exposure.

The Centre said that unless Canada follows the lead of other industrial countries and places more restrictions on the use of asbestos products, it should expect workplace fatalities to continue to rise. “Asbestos is a particular concern because Canada continues to mine and export the mineral,” it said in a press release issued with the report. “Given how asbestos-related diseases develop slowly over time, fatalities are expected to continue to rise.”

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