Asbestos Risk in Canada

Asbestos is a toxic fibrous mineral found in Canadian consumer and construction products. These include insulation, tiles, brake pads and cement. Canada banned asbestos in 2018. Yet, Canadians still risk mesothelioma cancer caused by legacy asbestos.

Canada was once dedicated to mining chrysotile asbestos. The nation permitted the production and use of asbestos in thousands of products. Its cancer rate is now one of the highest in the world.

Doctors diagnose mesothelioma in about 1.6 of every 100,000 Canadians yearly. Approximately 500 Canadians die every year from asbestos illnesses. Asbestos-related diseases account for about a third of workplace deaths in Canada.

Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?

Canadian jobs most at risk of asbestos exposure include engineering, construction and transportation. These jobs arose from Canada’s past asbestos mining industry.

The highest mesothelioma rates occur in Vancouver and Quebec. Shipyards in Vancouver exposed many Canadians to asbestos. Quebec is home to many of Canada’s early asbestos mines. A 2022 study found that sediment near Lake Bécancour in Quebec contains up to 4.4% asbestos by weight.

High-risk Canadian asbestos occupations include:
  • Miners
  • Ship loaders
  • Truck drivers
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Insulation installers
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Shipbuilders
  • Textile workers
  • Military service personnel
  • Nuclear facility workers

Canadian asbestos cancer rates continue to rise. The 2018 Canadian asbestos ban exempted the military and many other industries. There are still over 20,000 buildings that contain asbestos in Canada.

This increase in cancer rate is most noticeable among construction and maintenance workers. Renovation work on older buildings releases asbestos as dust. This dust puts workers at risk of disease.

Is Asbestos Banned in Canada?

There is a ban on asbestos in Canada. The Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations came in 2018. Although, specific uses of asbestos remain legal in Canada.

The nuclear energy and military industries can use asbestos until 2029. The chloralkali industry has until 2030. Magnesium extraction companies can use asbestos mining waste.

Canada has held off on the World Health Organization’s universal ban on asbestos. The government has also considered reopening the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec.

Canadian Asbestos Mines

There are no longer any active asbestos mines in Canada. The last two asbestos mines closed in 2011. One was the Jeffrey Mine in Val-des-Sources, Quebec. The other was the Lac d’amiante du Canada in the nearby town of Thetford Mines, Quebec. It was the first time in 130 years that Canadian asbestos production stalled and likely impacted Canada’s mesothelioma rate.

Panoramic view of the LAB-Chrysotile Asbestos Mine in Quebec, Canada
North America’s last full-time operating asbestos mines, located in Quebec, closed in 2011.

Canada once produced 40% of the world’s chrysotile asbestos. Quebec, Newfoundland, British Columbia and the Yukon had the most significant deposits. The country’s first asbestos mine opened in Quebec in 1874. Asbestos soon became known as “Canada’s Gold.”

In early 2008, Health Canada began studying the dangers of asbestos. At the same time, they continued to remark on its value and safety in support of the asbestos industry.

Mesothelioma Cancer and Canadians

Asbestos exposure is the top cause of mesothelioma and occupational death in Canada. Mesothelioma tends to develop in either the chest or abdomen. The pleural form affects the protective lining of the chest and lungs. The peritoneal type occurs in the abdominal lining. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, chest pain and fatigue.

Breathing or ingesting asbestos fibers causes them to become trapped within sensitive tissues. After years, tissue irritation leads to disease. Mesothelioma has a latency period between 20 and 60 years before symptoms appear. This delay makes diagnosis challenging until the cancer is in its later stages.

Mesothelioma Cases Continue to Rise

Mesothelioma rates in Ontario have risen from an annual rate of 75 cases in 1993 to 250 per year in 2017. Cases are also high among women and adults over 70. This trend correlates with a shift toward environmental exposure over occupational hazards.

Rates have declined slightly for men in their 60s and younger, but total cases are unlikely to decrease significantly for many years.

Line graph illustrating rising mesothelioma cases in Canada for men and women.

Compensation for Asbestos Exposure in Canada

Some Canadians may be eligible for asbestos compensation. Those exposed to asbestos while living or working in the U.S. can file a claim in the states.

Provincial governments will pay patients and families affected by asbestos in Canada. You must have evidence that proves exposure occurred at work.

Lawsuits involving asbestos-contaminated talc may be an option for some Canadians. The country has moved toward restricting talc products, such as cosmetics. Canada will likely label talc as an official toxic substance.

Asbestos Lawsuits and Trust Funds for Canadians

Mesothelioma patients can file a lawsuit or trust fund claim. The financial reward can cover medical bills and other related expenses. Family members who lost a loved one can also file a lawsuit. They may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

Other options include Canada Pension Plan and WorkSafeBC disability pension. Veterans Affairs also offers disability pensions and class action lawsuits.

Mesothelioma Treatment in Canada

Canada’s medical system offers the latest treatment options for mesothelioma. Its socialized medical model makes therapy accessible to many.

In the U.S. and Canada, treatment is similar. A multimodal approach is typical. This method uses surgery, chemo and radiation. Clinical trials are also available for eligible patients.

Canadian Treatment Centers

Treatment centers offer options based on many factors. Cancer stage, tumor size and location can affect treatment. Patient age and health are also factors.

Top Mesothelioma Treatment Centers in Canada

Cross Cancer Institute at U of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Toronto, Ontario
Vancouver Cancer Centre Vancouver, British Columbia
McGill University Health Centre Montreal, Quebec
The Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre Ottawa, Ontario

Mesothelioma Specialists in Canada

Canada has a growing number of specialists. These experts include surgeons, oncologists and radiologists. Their training allows them to offer the best care.

Top Mesothelioma Specialists in Canada
Robert MacRae, M.D. Ottawa, Ontario
Christopher Lee, M.D. Vancouver, British Columbia
Rufus Scrimger, M.D. Edmonton, Alberta
Marc de Perrot, M.D. Toronto, Ontario
Walley Temple, M.D. Calgary, Alberta

Clinical Trials

The Canadian Cancer Society and the U.S. National Cancer Institute often work together on clinical trials. These trials test safety and effectiveness in treating mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers.

One ongoing clinical research trial at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Researchers aim to find the safest effective dose of a new type of radiation after surgery. The study ends in 2025.

An excellent source to check for open clinical trials throughout Canada is If you are considering a clinical trial, speak with a doctor about eligibility.

Common Questions About Asbestos in Canada

What year did asbestos stop being used in Canada?

Asbestos is still used in Canadian military facilities, the chloralkali industry, nuclear power plants and magnesium extraction from asbestos mining residue. Since 2018, exemptions from the Prohibition of Asbestos and Products Containing Asbestos Regulations allowed these industries to continue using asbestos.

Since Canada’s last two asbestos mines closed in 2011, Canada no longer produces chrysotile asbestos, but the toxic material is still present in older housing materials, shipyards and military facilities.

How many people died as a result of asbestos in Canada?

Between 2000 and 2016, nearly 7,000 Canadians died from mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. WorkSafeBC reported that almost one-third of these deaths are from the construction industry.

Many more deaths occur due to other asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer and asbestosis. About five Canadians are diagnosed with asbestos cancer every day. In 2017, the most recent year with mortality statistics, 490 Canadians died from mesothelioma, including 401 men and 89 women.

Which regions did asbestos most affect in Canada?

The regions most affected by asbestos include Quebec, Newfoundland, British Columbia and the Yukon, where large mineral deposits were initially found. Miners, ship loaders, truck drivers and other workers in these regions were exposed to high amounts of asbestos daily.

Canada’s first asbestos mine opened in Quebec in 1874. Its last two mines, the Jeffrey Mine in Val-des-Sources, Quebec, and the Lac d’amiante du Canada in Thetford Mines, Quebec, closed in 2011 due to financial, labor and development issues.