What does asbestos exposure do to you?

We’ve talked on this blog before about the importance of asbestos removal and the consequences of exposure to it, including lung cancer. But, to truly understand what Canada is doing when it exports the dangerous material to developing countries, maybe we should look closer at its effects.

People in developing countries use asbestos in building because it’s cheap, waterproof and a fire retardant. But the cons of exposure to it greatly outweigh the pros.

The most commonly discussed effects of asbestos exposure are mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the protective lining covering the lungs and other organs; and lung cancer. But the day-to-day suffering that accompanies exposure includes many other symptoms.

The tiny fibres of asbestos are not biodegradable, so your body doesn’t break them down when you inhale them. Instead, they can irritate and scar the lungs. At first, they may just cause coughing and sneezing. But continued exposure can lead to weight loss and pneumoconiosis, a restrictive lung disease common among labourers who are routinely exposed to dust, such as miners.

The people of developing countries, some of whom aren’t properly informed on the dangers of asbestos, import the material and open themselves up to the aforementioned symptoms. Canada doesn’t warn them or encourage asbestos remediation. Five-five other countries around the world have banned the product, but the Harper government continues to export the cancer-causing agent across the world.

The example of Tamil Nadu in India comes to mind. Its government is loading up on thatched asbestos roofing for its schools to prevent fires. In doing so, it’s replacing one deadly threat with another. And exporters like Canada are contributing to the problem.

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