Asbestos flooding B.C. with a ‘steady stream of death’

Quoted from http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Asbestos+flooding+with+steady+stream+death/3484958/story.html

Asbestos flooding B.C. with a ‘steady stream of death’

By Ethan Baron, Vancouver Province September 5, 2010

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Dirk Jansema has mesothelioma, a terminal disease caused by his exposure to asbestos in the workplace years ago. More Images »

Dirk Jansema has mesothelioma, a terminal disease caused by his exposure to asbestos in the workplace years ago.

Photograph by: James Clarke, The Province

Death’s first whisper came to Dirk Jansema while he was singing in his church choir.

The electrician from Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island had always been fit and healthy, his Sunday-morning voice kept strong by lung-boosting day-long hikes and hours of mountain biking.

But on that day four years ago as he stood in the choir and sang, he found himself short of breath. He thought he must be getting old.

The truth turned out far worse: He was feeling the first symptoms of a disease caused by exposure to asbestos — a mineral that takes decades in the body to do its killing work.

Soon, Jansema was huffing oxygen off a welder’s tank just to get himself through the workday.

Now, 61 and suffering from final-stage mesothelioma, Jansema has been told he has, at most, 18 months to live. He had spent his working life in pulp mills and other industrial sites, and remembers employers’ attitude toward asbestos ran along the lines of “You’ll be fine, don’t worry about it, you’ll be safe.”

 

Although health officials began to recognize the dangers of asbestos in the mid-1970s and the insulating, fire-resistant product was largely phased out of use in Canada by the ’90s, diseases related to asbestos exposure have become the leading cause of workplace death in B.C., according to the provincial workers’-compensation agency.

 

“You get ripped off of your life,” Jansema says. “It wasn’t self-inflicted. Somebody else did this to me.”

 

And while older workers have begun dying in droves from long-ago exposure to asbestos, the substance — found in many pre-1980 homes and in imported vehicle brake linings — still poses a lethal threat.

 

WorkSafe BC documents some 50 asbestos-related workplace deaths annually, but the true toll is far higher, as agency statistics only cover workers who have filed compensation claims.

[Article continues at original source]

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