Canada’s Saskatchewan province has more workplace fatalities due to asbestosis than any other ailment or injury, according to last year’s annual report. Of the 31 total workplace deaths in the province — a slight decrease from 2015 — one was due to heart attack, four were due to motor vehicle injuries, nine were listed traumatic deaths and 14 were related to occupational diseases. Thirteen of the 14 occupational disease deaths were caused by asbestosis.
As the name suggests, asbestosis is a lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos, which was once used in a variety of construction and manufacturing processes and is now known to cause cancer. Canada is in the process of completely banning its use. Asbestosis results in scar tissue forming in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. About one in seven people who suffer from asbestosis eventually develop lung cancer, MyMeso reported. It usually does not appear until many years after continued exposure, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is typical of health risks associated with asbestos. For example, mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, is often not diagnosed until decades after the exposure occurred.
The report notes workplace fatalities in the region are not decreasing as expected. “A recent analysis of fatalities shows the trend line for the fatality rate decreased by 18.24 percent from 2002 to 2016,” it states. “This suggests a very slow rate of decline over the past 14 years. This slow rate of decline is a significant concern for WorkSafe,” which is planning to conduct more research to determine the cause.
CBC News reports Saskatchewan was Canada’s first province to pass mandatory asbestos reporting regulations for public buildings, though critics note not requiring private property owners to do so continues to put public health at risk.