"I talked to my doctor about my exposure to asbestos and I had lung tests—nothing untoward showed up but in the last year this asthma has gotten worse," says Bob. "I am 62, in good shape and a pretty healthy guy, except for this. It is too coincidental—I think asbestos is related to my breathing problems today."
Thirty years ago, Bob worked for a paint company that also sold asbestos floor tile. "I unloaded trucks and the boxes were covered with asbestos dust," he says. "I also used a drywall compound that contained asbestos—we sanded it and raised clouds of dust which we would breathe; we had these silly little rubber band masks that didn't stop anything.
"I remember one time we remodeled a store with 8,000 sq ft of floor tile; we used belt sanders to remove the gloss from the tiles so we could put a new layer of tile over it. It took about three days of heavy sanding and another few days of removing dust. I am sure asbestos was in the A/C. At that time asbestos was embedded in the tile as part of the manufacturing process.
But nobody told us. There were no warnings on boxes and definitely not the tile.
Drywall compound with asbestos was prevalent in the late 1960s - those were the times when workers like me were exposed to these compounds—1 was 27 at that time. That was probably the biggest asbestos exposure I had and we cleaned it up for a few months. Then I worked in the store where we removed the tile.
Now I realize that we would have been better off not removing that tile.
As I said, I worked in the paint industry and a lot of stuff we sold contained asbestos. As well, I tore out drywall in a house years ago and I know that contained asbestos.
So over the years I have had many incidents of exposure. Maybe it has finally caught up with me. I don't think there is much more my doctor can do, I just have to live with it at this point.
I live in a house now that doesn't have any mold in it, nothing that can give me asthma. I sell insurance so there is no on-the-job exposure that could cause me to have breathing problems. Where did this asthma come from?"
"People may react to smoke and asbestos and dust with a cough, a sore throat and respiratory conditions like asthma," says one health official in response to a potential health risk after a fire caused asbestos fibres to contaminate the air in the town of Patea, New Zealand. "If they experience any issues, they should see their own doctor or an emergency department."
Asbestos has been banned by nearly every developed country, as well as a growing number of developing nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated as many as 100,000 people around the world die annually from asbestos-related diseases.
The United States recently announced plans to ban asbestos due to health risks.
WHO, the Canadian Cancer Society and other respected organizations have called for a ban on all forms of asbestos. But it is still in use throughout the US and Canada.
Canada is one of the worst offenders worldwide: Over 90 percent of Canada's asbestos goes to developing countries, where worker protections are weak or non-existent.
Instead of banning asbestos, the Canadian government promotes the sale of asbestos around the world.
On February 20, 2008, despite pressure from Canadians (and developing nations such as India), the Canadian Labour Congress put a hold on banning asbestos mining. According to the CBC, the decision came after its Quebec affiliate pressured Congress.
Last week, the All India Trade Union Congress, the second largest union in India, appealed for help in urging the Canadian government to stop exports of Canadian asbestos to India, calling the mineral "a major killer."
READ MORE LEGAL NEWS
According to the mesothelioma news website (archived) the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued regulations to phase out the use of almost all asbestos products in 1989, and these rules were overturned in a court challenge in 1991. Industry spokesmen accordingly emphasize that the sale of almost all asbestos products is still allowed in the US.
Asbestos is found in common household products and even found in children's toys. Asbestos exposure is unacceptable and the call for a total ban is long overdue.