Mesothelioma Alert: Investigation Slams Asbestos Industry in Canada

08/24/2010 // Chicago, IL, USA // Cooney & Conway // Mesothelioma lawyers: Cooney & Conway

A controversy-plagued plan to expand an asbestos mine in Quebec has been inflicted a serious blow to the relief of advocates for victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

It comes just as the level of protest against Canada’s asbestos producers and in particular its export policies is reaching a fever pitch.

Asbestos, a material with heat- and fire-resistant qualities that made it a popular building material before a link to deadly cancers and other conditions was scientifically established, is still present in countless structures in North America.

Canada exports it, largely to countries in the third world. Indeed, the province of Quebec, the center of Canadian asbestos production, shipped $97 million worth of asbestos fiber abroadin 2008. It is the world’s fifth-largest producer of asbestos and the fourth-largest exporter.

Quebec’s actions are particularly troubling, say mesothelioma lawyers and researchers. This is because many developing nations do not have regulations and safety practices in place for handling and using asbestos, increasing the risk that workers and others exposed to the material may develop asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the protective lining covering many of the body’s organs.

Mesothelioma, which can take decades to develop, carries a prognosis that is invariably grim. While mesothelioma lawyers have succeeded in recovering large jury awards and settlements for victims, researchers have yet to create an effective long-term treatment.

Now, a $58 million loan guarantee from the Quebec provincial government may be in jeopardy. It was supposed to be the chief financing tool for expansion of the asbestos-producing Jeffrey Mine in the Quebec town of Asbestos.

In parallel, the British Broadcasting Corp., in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has released the results of an intensive nine-month examination into the global asbestos industry and the Montreal-based Chrysotile Institute’s roll in marketing asbestos abroad.

The investigation, titled “Dangers in the Dust,” found that in an effort to promote asbestos sales on global markets, the institute and its affiliated entities have laid out $100 million in both public and private funding since the mid-1980s in just three countries : Canada, India, and Brazil.

The spending has come as the perils of asbestos exposure and the resulting asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits have become more widely publicized. Medical experts, victims of asbestos exposure, and mesothelioma lawyers have all called for an outright ban on the material. And the public has become increasingly conscious of and worried by the health risks of asbestos.

That has led to an outcry against the proposed expansion project in Quebec, and demonstrations in cities across the globe.

“The level of protest has really gone up, especially over the past year or so,” said Jim Morris, one of the lead journalists in the BBC/ ICIJ investigation.

“One of the real surprises, Morris indicated, was how closely the pro-asbestos lobby groups work with one another.” “Groups in India, Russia, and Mexico work very closely with the Chrysotile Institute . . . sharing information, coordinating their public relations strategies.

And they’ve been pretty successful. In countries like India, they’ve overwhelmed the activists and the health organizations.”

While Quebec Premier Jean Charest has not commented on the BBC report, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff made his position clear last month, when the results of the investigation were released.

“It has become impossible to export a product like [asbestos], because we can’t have guarantees that it will not be harmful in India or in other countries.”

The fear, of course, is that asbestos exports may guarantee something else entirely: more disease, more deaths, and more work for mesothelioma lawyers. With the new report and increasing public protests, that’s something opponents of asbestos production now hope is less likely to happen.

This news story was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway. For more than half a century, we have been advocates for those injured due to the wrongful actions of others. We have litigated and resolved some of the nation’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, bringing justice and compensation to victims of asbestos exposure and the lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other deadly diseases it can cause

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