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Fighting Mesothelioma: Canada Lose a Battle, U.S. Gears for Another

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Canadian mesothelioma advocates have lost a major battle in their fight against asbestos, while their American counterparts gear up for another battle of their own in Washington.

Despite months of protests by health organizations, mesothelioma activists, including the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Medical Association, the Quebec government has agreed to extend a loan that will reopen Canada’s largest asbestos mine. The $58 million dollar loan has been on the table since the Jeffrey Mine in the town of Asbestos closed last year due to financial problems, laying off some 500 workers. The loan had been contingent on raising seed money from investors. The mine’s president estimates that the loan will keep the mine open for at least another 20 years.

While it will put about 400 Asbestos residents back to work, the reopening of the Jeffrey Mine will also put them at risk for mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and a host of other serious diseases associated with asbestos.  The risk may be even greater in the third world countries which import Canadian asbestos, where safety standards are often lax. Ironically, the Canadian media reports that asbestos is rarely used inside Canada and is even being removed from dozens of public buildings, including the Prime Minister’s residence.

At the same time, U.S. mesothelioma advocates, physicians and other experts are gearing up to make their own case against asbestos on Capitol Hill. Among those slated to appear before Congress in late July is Barbara Minty McQueen, the wife of actor Steve McQueen, who died of mesothelioma in 1980. McQueen will join several noted mesothelioma physicians to make the case for a U.S. ban on the use of asbestos.

Mesothelioma advocates have stepped up their efforts to ban asbestos after a U.S. Geological Survey Report showed a 34 percent increase in U.S. asbestos consumption in 2011. So far, the U.S. has refused to ban the substance, which has been banned by all members of the European Union and is considered a serious carcinogen by the World Health Organization.  The WHO estimates that 100,000 people around the world, including about 2,500 Americans, die of mesothelioma each year.


Maioni, Antonia, “Kicking up some dust over Quebec’s Asbestos loan), July 9, 2012, The Globe and Mail.
Roberts, Jeremy, “Mrs. McQueen goes to Washington”, July 11, 2012, TheExaminer.com.

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