The Globe's asbestos project, No safe use, is the result of two-and-a-half months of reporting and research, put together by a team at The Globe and Mail. Its genesis began with a simple question: what is the most common reason for work-related deaths in Canada? Asbestos was the surprise result.
Most coverage about asbestos petered out when the last Canadian mine closed in 2011. This story set out to look at the mineral's legacy.
We began with workplace death statistics. This data was compiled for the Globe and Mail by the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada (at a total cost of $255). The data set runs from 2007 to 2012, which is the most recent year for which national data is available. This is the most complete information available on work-related deaths in Canada.
But there are limitations: not everyone is covered by workers' comp. Coverage also varies by province. Not everyone bothers to makes a claim. And not all claims are successful, which means they are not counted in the statistics. More details on WSIB definitions and data can be found here.
Download the full datasets:
- The sources of workplace death - Asbestos is at the top with 2,268 deaths.
- The causes of workplace death - Mesothelioma leads with 1,207 deaths
- Occupations with asbestos related deaths - Construction trades helpers and labourers has the highest number with 130 deaths
Next we wanted to know if asbestos was still showing up in trade data — Canada's imports and exports. This data was compiled for The Globe and Mail by Statistics Canada (specifically, its international accounts and trade division). It captures all imports and exports of raw asbestos and products containing asbestos shipped from 2004 to 2013.
For cancer statistics, mesothelioma deaths are taken from Statistics Canada CANSIM table 102-0522 for 2000 to 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. For the number of new cases of mesothelioma, we used CANSIM table 103 0553 (it shows 512 new cases for the most recent year).
As for reporting, this story is based on about 50 interviews with doctors, mesothelioma patients, health and safety workers, lawyers for mesothelioma victims and/or their families, government officials, union representatives, victims' families and business owners in four countries.
For those wanting to learn more about asbestos and asbestos-related diseases, here is some further reading:
- World Health Organization's views on asbestos-related diseases
- World Health Organization's fact sheet on the elimination of asbestos-related diseases
- World Health Organization’s update of the scientific evidence on asbestos and cancer
- Global mesothelioma deaths reported to the WHO between 1994 and 2008
- The worldwide pandemic of asbestos-related diseases
- Australia's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency
- United Kingdom’s “hidden killer” asbestos campaign
- United States Environmental Protection Agency asbestos page
- Finland's cancer registry
- Finland's approach to managing asbestos-related diseases
- Trends in compensation for deaths from occupational cancer in Canada: a descriptive study
- Canadian cancer statistics at a glance: mesothelioma
- WorkSafeBC's "hidden killer" campaign
- Pictures of common uses of asbestos in buildings from WorkSafeBC
- Saskatchewan's registry of public buildings
- 1984 Royal Commission on asbestos use in Ontario
- Newfoundland's Baie Verte registry of miners