The federal government should warn former navy sailors that they may have been exposed to dangerous amounts of asbestos on military ships, says a veteran who is dying of lung cancer.
Doctors for Harvey Friesen, who lives in Ladner, B.C.,said helikely developed the cancer as a result of the two years heservedin the 1960s on HMCS New Glasgow, a frigate based in Nova Scotia.
The ship's pipes were sprayed, wrapped and insulated in asbestos, a construction material that has been linked to cancer and lung disease.
Veterans Affairs Canada compensated Friesen by more than $100,000 for his exposure and subsequent illness.
Friesensaid the federal agency should be warning other navy veterans that they are at risk for disease.
"Everyone who served on there was exposed to asbestos," Friesen said Tuesday. "It certainly was a secret to me, and I'm sure to many other servicemen, that there was help available."
The government should also be helpingthe veterans get screened with chest X-rays, he said. If they are ill, the veterans should be encouraged to seek compensation, Friesen said.
An estimated 18,000 people may have been exposed to asbestos, which wasused on military ships between the Second World War and the 1970s.
Difficult to track exposure: Veterans Canada
A spokeswoman for Veterans Canada said it would be difficult to find out which veterans served on ships that used asbestos.
"Unfortunately we can't do that: we don't know in the case of a particular ship who served on it or where they might be living today," said Janice Summerby.
"Generally we rely on veterans organizations to spread the word."
Summerby encouraged any veterans who have illnesses that they think may be related to their service to contact Veterans Canada. She said there was no deadline to apply for compensation.
Friesen urged veterans to get screened.
"Get a chest X-ray on a yearly basis to make sure if you have cancer, you catch it early."