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Asbestos in Canada: The politics, the economics, and the deadly legacy

In his final days, Blayne Kinart lies in his bed breathing with the aid of a respirator in a hospital’s palliative care unit. The 58-year-old former chemical worker died July 6, 2004 from mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure, in Sarnia, Ont. Residents of the area have nicknamed Sarnia “Chemical Valley”, due to the large number of chemical plants operating in the area.

The deadly effects of asbestos use

Canada will join more than 50 other countries in banning asbestos, the federal government announced on Thursday.

The ban, to be implemented by 2018, as reported by The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant, comes after decades of urging from health advocates, labour groups and those affected by asbestos-caused diseases, prominent among which are lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

In Canada, more than 2,000 people a year are diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers, the Occupational Cancer Research Centre says, and The Globe recently reported that asbestos is the top cause of workplace deaths in Canada, accounting for 5,614 accepted workplace fatality claims since 1996.

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Over the years, The Globe has reported on the asbestos industry in Canada, and the substance's deadly legacy. The images below by photojournalist Louie Palu are a haunting reminder of how asbestos has affected - and continues to affect - Canadians.

Asbestos mining tailings, known as residue, from the mining of chrysotile asbestos seen in the city of Thetford Mines in Quebec. Up to 300 million tons of this residue have been abandoned by mining operations throughout the region. Thetford Mines was founded in 1876 after the discovery of large asbestos deposits in the area. The city became a hub for one of the world’s largest asbestos-producing regions.

Raghunath Manwar examines an X-ray of one of several workers who has been diagnosed with asbestosis in Ahmedabad, India.Mr. Manwar is the secretary of an NGO called the Occupational Health and Safety Association and he is located in Ahmedabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat. He is working with the employees affected by asbestos from the Ahmedabad Electric Company (AEC) and the former Digvijay Cement Factory.

The Black Lake open pit asbestos mine, or Lac d’amiante du Canada (LAC) which is owned by LAB Chrysotile is located in Thetford Mines, Quebec.

Blayne Kinart is comforted by his wife Sandy after receiving a painkiller in the form of two patches stuck to his upper back. The 58-year-old former chemical worker died from mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure, on July 6, 2004.

A man working with asbestos cement roof tile adjusts tiles on the roof of a house in a small slum on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India. This entire community is built on top of and from the asbestos scraps and dumps from decades of production at the Shree Digvijay Cement Plant. This man broke numerous pieces of roof tile containing asbestos wearing no protection whatsoever. Broken sheets of asbestos cement products can release deadly fibres into the air.

Lyle Cassidy, 64, from Stettler, Alta., is seen at Toronto General Hospital after having his lung removed from a result of being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer exclusively associated with exposure to asbestos. Mr. Cassidy was diagnosed in December, 2013 and was exposed to asbestos when working in construction and at a power plant in the 1970s.

Fifty-eight-year-old Blayne Kinart, a former chemical worker who was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure, stands in his living room in Sarnia, Ont. Mr. Kinart died from the disease on July 6, 2004.

A doctor and a director at the OHCOW (Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers) clinic in Sarnia point to a “Body Map” in March 2004 which is used to pinpoint clusters of health issues in any particular industry area. This map is for the building trades in the Sarnia, Ont., area. Each dot represents a case of occupational disease or an injury from the workplace.

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