More than 50% already had asbestosis determined by X-Rays
For those exposed more than 20 years, 339 of 392 (87%) had asbestosis
Lung cancers were 7 times the expected rate
Gastrointestinal cancers were 3 times the expected rate
Asbestos stopped being used as sprayed on insulation, halfway through building the World Trade Centre buildings
But of course there was still lots of asbestos in the September 11, 2001 dust
Do you have to be covered in dust to die from asbestos?
The answer is “no”
Professors CAUT employed at the University of Manitoba have died from asbestos exposure
Where is asbestos in your workplace?
If you don’t know, find out
Where is asbestos likely to be found?
In this workplace it’s in the cladding around the building.
But it can be almost anywhere
Ceilings (used for noise as well as fire insulation)
In Ceiling Tiles
Canadian school, 2002
In floor tiles
When asbestos deteriorates it becomes “friable” (crumbly)
When it becomes friable it is released into the air and you can breathe it in
You can also ingest it
What is asbestos?
It is a “natural” fibre found in the ground
It is mined and processed and used to be used in a wide variety of products
Two main Asbestos groups
Amphiboles (straight fibres)
Serpentine (curly fibres)
There’s not really a lot of difference
95% of world asbestos
Includes Canadian asbestos:
It is a nearly perfect product for insulation
It is fireproof and virtually indestructible
Great for brake pads and many other products
These indestructible asbestos fibres stay in your lungs forever
Asbestos fibres in lung tissue
They are inhaled deep into the lung into the tiny air sacs where oxygen is transferred into the bloodstream
Asbestos fibres are so tiny there are a million of them in three centimetres
At the cell level your body tries to protect you from the invading fibres
Macrophage engulfing an asbestos fibre
And scarring results
What diseases are caused by asbestos?
Asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) from high exposures
This is what your lung is supposed to look like
Not like this
Today, asbestosis is not an issue for most union members in Canada since exposures are not that high
For union members, the major risk is from cancer
Which cancers? – a variety
Cancer is an issue for even low exposures
We are all made up of cells
Cancer: damage to a single cell starts the clock ticking
Ingest asbestos fibres into our gastrointestinal system
Colon cancer is a common cancer
We can breathe in asbestos fibres
Main asbestos related cancers are:
This is lung cancer
Of the lining around the lung, pleural mesothelioma
Of the lining around the abdomen, peritoneal mesothelioma (risk is from high exposure)
Mesothelioma is always associated with asbestos
And, unfortunately, it is fatal, usually within 6-12 months
Tumour in the lining of the lung
It crushes the life out of you
There is no cure
Often 30 to 45 years after exposure
They can operate and take out some ribs and part of your lung to let the tumour grow
How much is too much?
Very small amounts over many years can cause mesothelioma
Large amounts over a short period (a few weeks) can cause mesothelioma
One bad fire: apparently enough
The downtown Air Canada Toronto reservations office had a fire resulting in asbestos insulation falling on clerks’ desks
They had to return to work before it was cleaned up
A CAW member contracted mesothelioma years later and she died
Always associated with asbestos exposure
You’re usually not sick yet
Early warning sign
Some experience unrelenting pain, eg. daughter of tactonite miner, exposed as a child, 31 years of increasing pain
Family members of asbestos workers
Asbestos exposure from hugging, washing clothes
Some contract pleural plaques
Some contract mesothelioma, eg. 14 year old son of a CAW member. He died at 16.
679 wives and children
39% had signs of asbestos scarring on lungs
Signs and Symptoms of asbestos disease
Shortness of breath
Visible on X-Ray
Confirmed at autopsy
Lung cancer – at this stage may be no signs and symptoms
But what about smoking?
Risk of lung cancer from asbestos is 5 times the general population
Risk of lung cancer from smoking is 10 times the general population
Risk of lung cancer from smoking combined with asbestos exposure is 50-90 times the general population
So how do we protect union members?
Work closely with the health and safety committee members
Skilled trades workers are often most at risk
They have to work in asbestos-containing areas
So they need to know where the asbestos is
We have banned the use of asbestos in major collective agreements
We now have to bargain its safe, effective removal
Work refusals lead to action on asbestos
At airports throughout Canada
CAW members exercised their right to refuse unsafe work under the Canada Labour Code
Through the courage of these women union members, they protected themselves, their fellow workers and the public
Is there a map and is asbestos identified clearly?
Each place where asbestos is found must have a clear label
There should be a map of where asbestos is found in each workplace
But we can’t always trust this information
If people are working on the ceiling of your work area and dust is falling and you are unsure, insist it be analyzed for asbestos
Insist on asbestos removal by knowledgeable firms and workers
Proper Asbestos Removal
Complete enclosure of the asbestos removal area by sealed plastic
Only trained asbestos removal workers to be in the asbestos removal area
Negative pressure in removal area so no asbestos fibres escape
What about encapsulation (covering the asbestos)?
Eventually, all asbestos will become friable
Every time it is disturbed, it gets into the air
Remove it competently and the problem is solved
If the building is going to be torn down in the near future, crumbly asbestos can be encapsulated
Asbestos continues to kill Francis Huggett: $102,450 plus pension; rep Karen Willsey
Closed in 1988, legacy of death lives on.
Holmes Foundry Claims
But what about Canada’s export of asbestos?
The Chrysotile Asbestos Institute promotes chrysotile asbestos as “safe”
Where is our asbestos used in developing countries?
Everybody needs clean water, right?
But these pipes deteriorate and break, releasing asbestos
And usually we export only raw asbestos so someone had to mix the asbestos and the cement, usually by hand
And asbestos is used in roofs of houses and huts where it crumbles directly onto the people who live there
Where is this asbestos roof?
Asbestos bags leak
Brazilian worker breaking open asbestos bags
Asbestos use in Peru: half is from Canada
Canadian asbestos in Peru
Working with Asbestos in Peru
Funeral: Asbestos Deaths in Peru
Asbestos Use in India
How little protection there is in developing countries for either workers or for the general population.
Ahmedabad, Gujarat India
Manager of an asbestos factory: “Our factory is so safe that our workers do not need to wear masks.”
The factory has received an ISO 9002 rating from a British company.
Broken asbestos pieces are used to fill up areas as driveways where vehicles enter the distribution area.
There is a water spray on the blade of the circular saw but the worker’s hair is white with asbestos.
These next pictures are from Pakistan
From a presentation by Laurie Kazan-Allen from the UK with photos from Noor Jehan of Pakistan
Assistant Professor Noor Jehan standing with a worker beside an asbestos dump at the Asbestos, Talc and Clay Crushing unit in Mohmand Agency, Pakistan.
Asbestos sheet cutting unit in Mardan City (NWFP) located on the main road in a residential area.
Inside this building is a flour mill; while outside is an asbestos crushing machine and an asbestos dump. The man in the picture has worked for 8 years on this machine and was not convinced of any hazard related to asbestos inhalation or its mixing with flour produced inside the building.
Why does Canada support the production of asbestos?
Isn’t is unconscionable?
How can our federal government oppose asbestos bans in other countries, including bringing a complaint against the French asbestos ban to the WTO?
To understand the position of the federal government, you have to understand the history of the union movement in Québec
Québec, mining asbestos since 1879
No protection in the early days, King mine 1896
Women also had no protection, 1930 Johnson mine
Yet in 1911, insurance companies stopped insuring asbestos workers
Because they were dying of asbestosis and cancer
This is a recent asbestos miner showing his X-Ray
In Asbestos and in Thetford Mines the towns were adjacent to the mines and tailings. St.-Maurice parish, 1950
1949, Premier Maurice Duplessis ruled Québec
Le drapeau fleurdelisé, adopté par Maurice Duplessis le 21 janvier 1948
Duplessis, nationalist or imposter?
Fascist or statesman?
In 1949, miners in Quebec were prepared to fight back
Miners in Asbestos and Thetford Mines fought back
Against the U.S. corporation, Johns Manville
Against the Roman Catholic Church
And especially, against Maurice Duplessis
They fought for four months
The issues were wages, but especially, working conditions, protection from the killer dust, asbestos
Asbestos Strike Québec, 1949
Asbestos Strike, 1949 Who was there?
Jean Marchand, union leader
Gérard Pelletier, journalist with Le Devoir
1949 - 1951, conseiller au Conseil privé
What did the workers think?
Globe and Mail, headline, Oct. 2, 2000:
“ Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1919-2000, Still a hero in Québec after all these years”
Rosaire Drouin, miner, speaking of Trudeau,
“ He was sort of the ambassador for the union. He explained to us our rights against Duplessis." “
“ He defended the workers. He was good for Québec and Canada. It's a long time since we've seen a good one like that."
Duplessis sent Archbishop Charbonneau to BC because he supported the strikers
1949’s legacy remains. Debating anti-scab legislation in Parliament, October 21, 2003:
Mr. André Bachand (Richmond—Arthabaska, PC)
“ I am from Asbestos.”…
“ The scabs were the main problem during the strike of 1949 in Asbestos. I am not going to call them “strikebreakers” or “replacement workers”; they were scabs. There were fights, and the provincial police were there.”
Québec sovereignty movement Quiet Revolution really began in 1949 with the Asbestos Strike
Québec miners 1975
As you can hear in this CBC Radio clip, patients suffering from asbestos-related illnesses experience shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and persistent coughing often excreting blood:
CBC Radio clip: 1975, Thetford Mines, Paul Brodeur, etc. http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-75-608-3400/science_technology/asbestos/clip2
Miners still striking in the ‘70s over working conditions
Québec mines cleaned up considerably after the PQ nationalized the mines
Still a risk at work, but not an enormous one as before
Tailings are still there Thetford Mines, 2002
Just Transition Needed
Relocation assistance for miners and residents
Retraining for workers
These countries all have some form of asbestos ban:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil (4 states), Chile, Croatia, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Uruguay
How can we export death to the third world?
Chrysotile asbestos – it looks so innocent, but it’s so deadly
Canada Day, July 1, 2009 English unionists ride against Canadian asbestos
Support the international asbestos ban!
Congratulations to the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour!
It is appalling that this litany of death be allowed to continue
I call on all of you with as much sincerity as I can muster
Keep the pressure on the Canadian government!
Don’t let us continue to mine and export asbestos, killer dust!
I salute each and every one of you who has ever carried a sign like this: