Veterans who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma know all too well the role that profit motive played in their illness: asbestos companies that placed their continuing profitability over the health of people knowingly put them at risk. Today, those companies are paying for their avarice, forced to pay multi-million dollar settlements and jury awards to those who have been sickened by the carcinogenic material, but their fate has not stopped Canadian companies that are trying to move forward with a new use for asbestos tailings left behind by decades of mining. While these companies argue that their process will clean the environment and bring jobs to a region that’s been hard hit economically, health and safety experts are worried that their work will only prolong the illness trend that has devastated the area.
Quebec is the area of Canada that was home to the nation’s asbestos mine activity, and as a result the region has double the rate of mesothelioma compared to the rest of the nation. Though the use of asbestos has been banned, the government specifically exempted the use of asbestos tailings left behind by the mining community, and now a company has come up with a use for the estimated 800,000 tons of asbestos residue that’s been left behind. A company called Alliance Magnesium says that its technology that will take the left-behind asbestos residue and process it in a way that removes the deadly fibers and produces magnesium and amorphous silica, both of which are economically valuable. They claim that their process will not only be a boon to the area’s economy, but will also eliminate the dangerous asbestos. They even promise that after the job is done, they will plant forests where none will now grow. The question for those concerned about safety is how the public and workers will be protected from exposure to asbestos as it is moved around and processed. Pubic hearings may need to be scheduled and the government’s environment ministry will need to give its blessing, but since the Quebec government has already invested millions into the project, it seems likely that certificate will be given.
Mesothelioma victims and advocates attempting to protect the public from future illness point out that the asbestos fibers left behind can still cause illness, and they want to make sure that the process will not increase the level of airborne asbestos fibers, as well as that the public is kept away from the area. Activist Kathleen Ruff said, “It’s been the whole history of asbestos since Day 1: the lack of transparency, vested interests capturing the issue to their benefit … with no concern for the health and environmental consequences, just dumping that on the shoulders of taxpayers to deal with in the future to pay the health costs. It’s the same old story.”
As Canadians deal with the future use of asbestos, America’s veterans are struggling with past asbestos exposure and the impact that mesothelioma is having on them and their families. For information on the benefits and resources available to you, contact us today at 1-800-726-7245.