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Canadian asbestos claims expected to rise

October 4th, 2006

An official with Canada’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board says that he expects claims for asbestos-related illnesses to rise in upcoming years. Fergus Kerr says that claims for mesothelioma have doubled over the last five years, and he sees no reason why that trend will not continue in the foreseeable future.

Kerr is the director of the Occupational Disease and Survivor Benefit program (ODSB), which is intended to compensate workers who develop medical conditions on the job. The ODSB classifies mesothelioma and asbestosis, another asbestos-related disease, as “schedules for disease,” meaning that workers who develop these diseases from their work environment are compensated automatically. Compensation includes 85% of wages, as well as pensions, burial costs and interest.

Canada has passed several laws regulating the use of asbestos-containing products. Asbestos is one of 11 substances for which worker exposure is restricted. Canada declared asbestos a toxic substance in 1977 and officially placed it on the Toxic Substances list in 1999.

Canadian law also stipulates that asbestos products which are made for domestic use must be encased in cement or resin to prevent asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. Kerr, however, says that even though these regulations are effective, they are by no means foolproof. “You are right in saying that if you don’t touch it, and it’s undisturbed, it poses little risk,” he says. “But can anybody guarantee it?”

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