VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Canadian health officials say diseases related to asbestos exposure have become the leading cause of workplace death in British Columbia.
Officials began to recognize asbestos dangers in the mid-1970s, and the fire-resistant insulating material was largely phased out of Canada by the 1990s, The (Vancouver) Province newspaper reported.
Older workers have begun dying from long-ago exposure to asbestos, but the material is still found in many pre-1980 homes and in imported vehicle brake linings, and still poses a lethal threat, the report said.
WorkSafe BC has compiled documents showing about 50 asbestos-related workplace deaths annually, but the actual toll is far higher -- the statistics only cover workers who have filed compensation claims, the newspaper said.
In Trail, British Columbia, United Steelworkers officials began noticing that many workers who had retired from Teck's (formerly Cominco) zinc and lead smelting plant were affected by asbestos-linked diseases, the Postmedia News agency reported.
The union identified nearly 100 victims who worked in the smelter from the late 1940s to the late 1970s.
"I've seen first-hand what some of these people go through, and their families go through, and their grandchildren, and it's just horrible," United Steelworkers Local 480 President Doug Jones told the agency.