The U.S. and Canada have a lot in common. Democracy, Niagara Falls, and language are just a few. Though most similarities are positive, some are not. Among the worst is the current state of asbestos use in both countries. The deadly mineral is still legal in the U.S. and Canada, costing each country billions of dollars each year. According to The Globe and Mail, the economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma from work-related asbestos exposure is around $1.7 billion per year. The Globe notes that this is likely an underestimate. Other sources, such as the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, estimate the annual cost at $2.35 billion. For a country of close to 37 million people, the economic burden is daunting.
In the U.S., asbestos-related illnesses cost several billion dollars annually, which includes medical and legal costs, as well as government programs such as public assistance, social security, disability, and unemployment. In a country that not too long ago experienced one of the most devastating recessions in history, the loss is weighty.
Fortunately, for one of these countries, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In December 2011, the last asbestos mine in Canada closed its doors. In May of 2016, at a building trade unions conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government is moving forward on an asbestos ban. “Its impact on workers,” he said, “far outweighs any benefits that it might provide." Per the Globe, the declaration was the first time since taking office that Trudeau had publicly talked about a potential ban.
Though Trudeau did not offer a timeline at the conference, just six short months later, a CBC Radio-Canada report announced that by 2018 the federal government hopes to ban asbestos in Canada and “change rules and regulations about the deadly material, which contaminates tens of thousands homes and buildings across the country and kills thousands every year.”
Back in the U.S., a total ban on asbestos is nowhere to be seen. Nearly 30 years ago, a final rule under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) banned most asbestos-containing products. However, the rule was vacated and remanded by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, says the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most of the original ban on the manufacture, importation, processing, or distribution in commerce for the majority of the asbestos-containing products originally covered in the final rule was overturned. What this means is, many asbestos-containing products are still legal, and most are items that American’s are exposed to every day—at work and at home.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, please see your doctor right away. Though there is no cure for mesothelioma, early detection could increase treatment options and improve outcomes.
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