Canadian Workers Exposed to Asbestos in Federal Buildings

Numerous workers claim that they were unknowingly exposed to asbestos while working at several federal buildings in Canada. They are now calling an action to plan to update the registry to ensure every worker is informed of the dangers of working in public buildings.

In a three-part series, Ottawa, Canada’s CBCNEWS followed workers who are now living with asbestos-related illnesses after working in buildings that are littered with asbestos or at high risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. One of the workers, 80-year-old Hugh Graham, developed pleural plaques on both lungs after working for decades as a House of Commons staff electronics technician. He is one of the ever-growing list of Canadian workers who suffer from an asbestos-related illness.

According to the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Graham’s illness came directly from working around asbestos during the 1980s and 1990s in Parliament Hill, a federal building in Ottawa. Records indicate that officials learned of the excessive amounts of asbestos during a 1988 study, yet Graham, along with other workers, knew nothing about it until years later.

As with most people who are diagnosed with an asbestos illness, Graham had no signs or indication that he was ill until several decades had passed. It wasn’t until an operation, more than 40 years later, that Graham learned about the disease.

“The plaque is over both my lungs…it’s also over my diaphragm…it looks like pizza pie, all lumpy and bumpy with scar tissue. That’s what turns into mesothelioma.”

Canada’s New Democratic Party Demands Action

Graham rightfully assessed that most other countries keep a registry of government buildings that contain toxic/hazardous threats. Yet, aside from the providence of Saskatchewan, Canada has no such list.

Consequently, the New Democratic Party (NDP) began a proposal to the  Canada Labour Code in 2012 to allow all federal buildings to keep records of occupational diseases and accidents. Yet, nothing came of the proposal. This week, however, NDP’s Pat Martin renewed the call for a registry.

“In the absence of a comprehensive removal program, will the minister of public works at least concede to creating and publishing a national registry of all government buildings that are contaminated with asbestos so the workers in these buildings have at least a fighting chance when they go to work?”

Although the issue was never addressed directly, a spokesperson for public works says that everything is being done to ensure workers are safe.

Electrician Exposed to Asbestos in Another Public Building

Meanwhile, 52-year-old electrician Denis Lapointe recently learned that he has been exposed to asbestos for the past 16 years while working as an electrician at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) building on Ottawa’s Heron Road.

Lapointed worked at the CRA from 1992 to 2008, and part of his job required drilling through floors and ceilings, and installing wires. Neither he nor his co-workers had any clue that they were disturbing asbestos fibers and placing themselves at the risk of developing life-threatening illnesses.

“I was exposed and I wasn’t properly protected, and here I was walking through this place, using air hoses and whatnot and blowing it to other people, so I have a conscience…That eats me up.”

Complaints Surface All Across Canada

Similar worries and complaints have surfaced all across the country, including private contractor, Don Garrett, who worked on projects in older government buildings. Not only was Garrett placed at risk, but he placed his employees in harm’s way because he had no idea that they were being exposed to asbestos. He recently filed a lawsuit with in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

“A project in an older building where there’s a chance of having asbestos, there’s a requirement to produce a pre-construction, hazardous materials report and that should have been with the tender package,” said Garrett.

Keep in mind that if you or a loved one have been negligently expose to asbestos, there is a good chance that you’ll qualify for considerable compensation. We invite you to fill out our contact form today to get free brochures from the leading mesothelioma attorneys in your area. We’ve been helping people successfully connect with experienced mesothelioma attorneys for more than 20 years. With $30 billion currently in asbestos trust funds, now is the time to determine what you may qualify for. 

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