It’s an exceptionally hazardous material when handled improperly, but the serious and often fatal illnesses that can result from exposure to this carcinogen may not reveal themselves for decades. Asbestos has been called the “hidden killer” because it’s extremely difficult to know whether it’s present in building materials or other products by sight alone. But if you live or work in a building constructed before 1990, there’s a strong possibility it’s present.
Although high levels of exposure to the material were known to pose a danger to a person’s health decades ago, Canada continued mining the substance until 2012 and will only introduce a complete asbestos ban in 2018. It’s widespread use in older building materials also mean that unsafe renovations or demolitions will continue to make asbestos exposure a threat Canadians are likely to face for years to come.
HSH lawyers have years of experience and expertise handling cases involving illness and disability related to negligent exposure to hazardous products and materials such as asbestos. If you believe you or a loved one may be suffering ill health due to past exposure to asbestos, let us help you determine if you qualify for compensation.
What is Asbestos?
A naturally occurring group of fibrous minerals, asbestos is durable, flexible, and resistant to heat, fire and chemicals. Used for years in a variety of building materials, asbestos is most often found in:
- house siding and roof shingles
- cement and plaster
- floor and ceiling tiles
- industrial furnaces, heating systems, and as pipe protectors
- vehicle components such as brake pads and clutches
- certain industrial fabrics
It was such a commonly used material that all of us have likely been exposed to very small amounts of tiny asbestos fibers through normal environmental exposure. Generally, this type of exposure is extremely unlikely to result in any health problems.
Dangers Due to Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos-related illness and long-term health problems from exposure are much more likely to occur in individuals who have worked in asbestos mines (or family members in close contact with their work clothing), people who live near asbestos mines, asbestos remediation workers, or other people in the construction industry who are likely to have faced high exposure. In fact, asbestos exposure is the most common cause of occupational death in Canada, accounting for about one-third of all workplace deaths. However, people who have lived or worked in environments where they experienced less intense but prolonged exposures to asbestos may also be at increased risk, and the risk is also greater among cigarette smokers.
Asbestos fibers in building materials are generally not harmful to one’s health unless they are disturbed and become airborne, or it the material is somehow compromised and begins to break down. Once these small fibers enter the lungs they often become lodged in lung tissue. Although the human body has the ability to self-clean lungs, the nature of asbestos fibers make them especially difficult to expel and they may stay in the lungs indefinitely.
Over time, the presence of these asbestos fibers can cause scarring, reducing lung function and making breathing difficult. In addition to this condition, known as asbestosis, other common ailments related to asbestos exposure include mesothelioma – a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity – and lung cancer. Smoking substantially increases the risk of these conditions, and there is a long latency period of asbestos-related disease – often from 20 to up to 50 years from the period of exposure.
Canada’s Dirty Little Secret
Health officials in Canada were well aware of the dangerous posed by asbestos for decades, but pressure to maintain the asbestos mining industry delayed the government from imposing restrictions on the material. Even after asbestos was no longer commonly used in building materials here, the Canadian-mined asbestos was promoted and exported to other countries without these types of health and safety protections. The clear evidence of this negligence is astounding and distressing.
Workers exposed to asbestos in their workplace can apply for provincial compensation, and other victim funds are available. Litigation is also a possibility. At HSH, our expert product liability lawyers can help guide you through this process.