Asbestos deaths in Alberta higher than reported, says Calgary prof
Dr. Alain Tremblay says the numbers don't tell the full story
A professor at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine believes the number of asbestos-related workplace deaths in Alberta is much higher than formally acknowledged.
According to a Worker's Compensation Board report,19 of 24 workplace deaths so far this year were traced back to asbestos exposure.
"This report looked at occupational and WCB claims and we know these are typically under-reported," said Alain Tremblay.
Tremblay said it's very difficult for workers to prove their cancer or illness is related to asbestos exposure because so many people from that time also smoked.
"If you look at cancer rates using government of Canada data, we know that rates of Mesothelioma are a fair bit higher. For example, in Alberta we see about 50 cases of Mesothelioma per year."
Rates should decline
The vast majority of people exposed to asbestos in Alberta were working in various trades in the 1960s and 1970s, with the disease not showing up until 30 to 50 years after exposure.
There is good news, following the removal of asbestos from buildings and the material being phased-out.
"We actually think that right now we are at the peak of the cases of Mesothelioma related to asbestos so we hope that in the next 10, 20, 30 years we'll start to see the rates comedown," said Tremblay.
The University of Calgary offers Asbestos screening programs for people who are worried they might have been exposed in their lives, involving CT scans.
The research study, sponsored by the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Western Canada Mesothelioma Foundation, is being conducted across Alberta.
The screening scans can be performed in Calgary, Edmonton or Fort McMurray.
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