The Harm that Asbestos Causes, and Canada’s Decision to Re-Open Asbestos Mine

By Peter DePaolis

Canada recently decided to loan $58 million to a bankrupt mining company in order to restart asbestos exports from the Jeffrey Mine located in Asbestos, Quebec. The Jeffrey Mine is one of the world’s largest asbestos mines. Canada exported huge amounts of asbestos from it over the past century. When the mining company exhausted all of the mine’s surface supply, it went bankrupt after it was unable to find financing from the private sector. The Canada government rescued it with the $58 million loan, which will ensure that the Jeffrey Mine will be able to export asbestos to the developing world for the next 25 years.

Given the health dangers that asbestos poses, Canada’s decision to re-open the mine met with protests across the world. Protestors took to the streets in Seoul, South Korea, Brussels, Belgium, Hong Kong, and New York City. In Washington, D.C., local workers’ unions 602 and 24 joined other protestors in front of the Canadian embassy to decry the decision to re-open the long dormant asbestos mine.

As the recipient of Canada’s asbestos, the developing world will face the worst consequences. Most industrialized countries have already banned asbestos use. Five years ago, the European Union banned all use of asbestos, as well as the extraction, manufacture and processing of any asbestos products. Quebec and the rest of Canada no longer use asbestos.

Fifty-two countries in total have banned all forms of asbestos, which experts have blamed for a range of lung diseases, cancers, and health problems. If unsafe work practices have exposed you or a loved one to asbestos or other dangerous conditions, a Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney can help you hold accountable those who were responsible.

Harms that Asbestos Causes

Asbestos is a set of minerals that became popular in the 19th century because the minerals could absorb sound, were strong, and were resistant to heat, electrical and chemical damage. Businesses have used asbestos in everything from fireproof drywall and lawn furniture to automobile brake pads and cigarettes.

Beginning in the early 1900s, however, researchers began to notice health problems in people frequently around asbestos. Today scientists link the inhalation of asbestos fibers with lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. As a result, most developed countries have banned the use of asbestos. Below are some interesting facts about the use of asbestos and its harms:

  • As early as the first century AD, the Greeks and Romans noticed that slaves wearing asbestos cloth became ill with lung sickness. When asbestos became popular in the late 1800s, scientists in England and France likewise noticed that those exposed to asbestos developed asbestos-related diseases.
  • In the United States, internal company documents demonstrate that companies knew about the dangers of asbestos since the 1930s at least. In the 1950s, many companies tried to eliminate any references in their own research to the existence of a link between asbestos and cancer.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency still permits the use of asbestos in certain products provided that it remains below a certain threshold.
  • Asbestos litigation is the longest and most expensive mass negligence lawsuit in the history of the United States. There are more than 8,400 defendants and 700,000 plaintiffs involved.

If a company or government negligently exposed you or a loved one to asbestos, contact a Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia personal injury lawyer at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. to learn about obtaining compensation for your medical problems.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.