There have been recent revelations that between 1968 and 1971, up to an estimated 68 per cent of all asbestos in use was imported from Canada by the UK before it was eventually banned in the late 1970s. This could mean that many of today’s victims of the asbestos-related diseases of mesothelioma and asbestosis had been originally exposed to the deadly Canadian imports.
The asbestos mineral has been continually mined and used around the world as a ready, cheap supply of chemical resistant fire insulation since the 1860’s for an endless number of construction materials and products. Use of asbestos peaked around 1977, when around 25 countries were producing approximately 4.8 million metric tonnes per year, with 85 countries manufacturing asbestos products.
Figures for 2008 show that Canadian exports still make up the majority of asbestos imported by developing countries, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Vietnam and Iran.
In the UK alone, it us suggested 6 million tonnes of asbestos were consumed throughout the 20th century. Despite growing asbestos awareness in the workplace which led to its eventual ban, as recently as 1995, the UK imported 10,143 tonnes of asbestos, of which 83%, or 8,430 tonnes, came from Canada.
Often, the UK’s terrible and ultimately, fatal legacy of exposure to asbestos by industrial workers throughout many manufacturing and construction industries, took between 30-50 years before asbestosis symptoms would appear. The continued rise of both asbestosis claims and mesothelioma compensation, is not expected to peak until 2050.
Historical evidence for the majority of Canadian asbestos imported into the UK can be found at the Liverpool docks. Even in 1997, 4,320 tonnes of asbestos were imported by the UK, of which, 2390 tonnes – or around 55% of all the UK’s asbestos imports of white asbestos – were imported through Liverpool docks, according to the Mersey Port Health Authority records.
Consequently, the third highest male death rate for mesothelioma disease is found in the North West, where around 85 percent of mesothelioma cases reported each year are among men who worked in UK shipyards. In 2006 alone, 1,740 men died of mesothelioma. It is also now estimated that around 91,000 deaths are predicted to occur by 2050 with around 61,000 of these occurring from 2007 onwards.
It is highly likely that many of these deaths will be the direct result of exposure to asbestos imported from Canada.