$1.7 billion. It’s a gross understatement to say that that’s a lot of money. But, indeed, it’s the whopping amount that it is costing Canadians to address asbestos-related cancers each year. As reported by Tavia Grant of The Globe and Mail, the Institute for Work & Health has conducted a study that found that an average of $818,000 per case is being spent by Canadians for health care costs stemming from lung cancer and mesothelioma due to work-related asbestos exposure.
As Tim Povtak explains on Asbestos.com, “researchers included the costs of treating mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer, administration expenses, patients’ out-of-pocket costs, caregiving wages, workers’ compensation and employers’ costs to replace absent workers, among other economic burdens.” Grant informs that asbestos continues to be the top cause of occupational deaths in Canada.
Over the past couple of months, our blog has been addressing the need for Canada to implement an absolute ban on asbestos. As of yet, the federal government is yet to follow through on its plans to announce the ban. Although no longer exported, asbestos is still being imported into the country. Meanwhile, the statistics about Canadian workers being affected by asbestos in their workplaces makes clear that it is a dangerous substance.
It’s unknown what the holdup is. Grant reminds us that on May 10th of this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government was “moving forward on a ban”, acknowledging that the impact the material has on working Canadians is far too hazardous to justify the benefits of using it. The new Institute for Work & Health study found a total of 2,099 diagnosed cases of mesothelioma in 2011.
Grant notes that the asbestos-related cancer is bound to continue to impact Canadians at even greater rates going forward. “The study noted that new cases are likely to grow in the near future due to long latency periods of these diseases and continued exposure,” she informs, “The key question the analysis sought to answer is what the savings to society would be if no cases of cancer attributable to occupational asbestos exposures occurred in a particular year.”
Dr. Emile Tompa is a senior scientist at the Institute for Work & Health. “When you see the magnitude of the cost, it makes you aware there is a need to take action,” Potvak quotes him as saying, “I think you’ll also see an increase in the number of cases for a few more years because of the long latency period with asbestos cancers. We often think about how much will it cost to find substitutes [for asbestos], or how much it will cost to change production. But the cost of doing nothing is substantially higher.”
Dr. Tompa points out that the Canadian Cancer Society-funded study looked at both direct and indirect costs related to asbestos exposure in the workplace. Health care costs for mesothelioma were found to run at $46,000 per case while lung cancer costs about $28,000 a case. “Often times, the health-care costs are very low because the fatality rates are extremely high following diagnosis. Most of these people don’t survive a year,” Grant quotes Dr. Tompa as saying.
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