Occupational diseases, including asbestos-related lung diseases, are the cause of many workplace fatalities in the province of Saskatchewan. In particular, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lung diseases were responsible for approximately 25 per cent of the 299 fatalities accepted by the Saskatchewan WCB in the last decade (2010-2017). In 2017, 27 fatalities were accepted by the WCB and roughly half were the result of occupational diseases.
While many of these asbestos-related diseases are from past practices decades ago, actions can be taken today to reduce the exposure to this hazard.
In 2018, WorkSafe Saskatchewan implemented an outreach and communication program aimed at reducing occupational disease and death caused by exposure to asbestos in residential demolition and renovation projects.
To learn more about where asbestos may be in your home, visit https://asbestos.ccohs.ca/
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in many residential and commercial building materials from the 1950s to the 1990s because of its strong fibres and resistance to fire. Common building materials that contain asbestos include:
- Insulation for houses
- Boilers, tanks and pipes
- Sheet flooring
- Floor tiles
- Decorative finishes on walls and ceilings
When asbestos is disturbed during renovations, tiny asbestos fibres are released into the air and inhaled. Asbestos fibres can get trapped into the lungs and cause serious health problems in the future, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Asbestos becomes dangerous when disturbed in some way. If materials containing asbestos are old and crumbly or these materials are damaged during a renovation, the dangerous asbestos fibers can fill the air. These fibers are invisible, so can be inhaled without even noticing. The fibers are durable and the human body can’t defend itself against them. (Haas, 2017 mesothelioma.com).
Asbestos fibers stick to the linings of the lungs, abdomen, or heart and cause great damage over time. Exposure to the toxin can lead to lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Symptoms aren’t typically realized until 20-50 years after exposure, and even then the symptoms can easily be confused for other illnesses. (Haas, 2017 mesothelioma.com).
From CCOHS and the Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association:
A majority of homes in Saskatchewan were built before 1990, which means these homes likely contain asbestos. However, very few Saskatchewan residents can identify one (1) example of where asbestos could be present in a residential property.
Asbestos was used in all kinds of building materials, from concrete and caulk to insulation and roofing shingles. Be aware of where asbestos may be present in your home.
Educate yourself on the risks of asbestos. By doing so, you will lessen the risk of exposure and the development of an asbestos-related lung disease.
From WorkSafe Saskatchewan
From WorkSafe BC:
- 2018 Industry Initiative Overview – Asbestos: Residential Enforcement
- Asbestos in Demolition and Renovation
- Hidden Killer
- Safe Work Practices for Handling Asbestos
- WorkSafeBC Asbestos in Demolition and Renovation